Matang is a Korean snack of sweet potato chunks deep fried in hot oil, then covered in caramelised sugar. I discovered this addictive snack in the Keelung Miaokou Night Market in Taiwan. We fell in love with this at first bite - sweet and crunchy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside. We were unable to find this anywhere else (believe me, we looked!), so I decided to make it myself. It looked misleadingly simple. Smirking with confidence, I embarked on my first attempt at making this supposedly easy snack. Boy was I humbled. Either I overcooked the potatoes, there was no crunchiness, overcooked the sugar, all the pieces stuck together.....I have since tried this many times, improving marginally with every attempt.
Finally I got it just right. It had just the right crispiness on the outside and the softness on the inside. But I decided to take it one step further and try making this without oil. I have never seen this done before in any of the sites I visited.
I'm very happy with my results. It tastes the same as the one I bought at the night market, yet it is healthier and has lower calories. With Chinese New Year just around the corner, I know what I'm going to serve my guests this year.
Peel the sweet potato, wash it, dry it well with a kitchen paper towel, then cut it into 1 inch chunks. Place the chunks on baking paper. It's important to leave a slight space in between each, so each will be properly baked. Pop into the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes (longer if you prefer larger chunks of sweet potato)
To test if the potatoes are done, either insert a toothpick into a chunk of sweet potato or take a small bite. It should be soft and cooked on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside.
Set aside and make the sugar caramel.
Heat the pan. When pan is ready, put about 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Do not add oil, and do not stir the sugar. Leave it in the pan until it starts to get a little yellow in parts. You can swirl the contents of the pan by moving the pan itself but remember not to stir it. Sugar is ready when all of it is a nice amber colour.
Coat the baked sweet potato chunks with the caramelised sugar. This part is a little tricky as the sugar is very sticky. Try to do this as quickly as possible. I find using tongs quite useful.
Place the coated sweet potato chunks on a baking sheet, making sure none of them touch. They will be very sticky at this stage, so if they are not separated now, you won't be able to separate them later. Then you will just have a huge, messy blob of caramelised sweet potatoes.
Let aside for 5 minutes, then enjoy! This needs to be eaten immediately. The sugar will not be crunchy if left for too long.
Oil-Free Caramelised Sweet Potato (Matang)
2 or 3 sweet potatoes
5 Tablespoons white granulated sugar
Heat the oven to 220 deg Celcius.
Line a baking tray with non stick baking paper.
Peel the sweet potato, wash it, dry it well with a kitchen paper towel, then cut it into 1 inch chunks.
Place the chunks on baking paper, leaving a slight space in between each, then pop it into the oven.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (longer if your chunks are larger). Set aside when done.
Heat a pan on the stove on medium heat. Pan is ready when droplets of water skitter over the surface when sprinkled on the pan.
Add the sugar. Do not stir. Swirl the liquid around the pan by moving the pan itself. when it starts to turn yellow. Once it turns amber, it is ready. Watch the pan careful as sugar burns quickly and easily. Switch off the stove immediately when it turned amber.
Quickly put the baked sweet potato chunks into the pan and coat them completely with the caramelised sugar. I find tongs work well here. The mixture will be sticky.
Place the coated chunks onto a non stick baking paper, making sure that each chunk is clearly separated from the others. Leave for about 5 minutes, then eat immediately.