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This unusual machine sells hot potatoes and cold potatoes, but are they any good?
During Japan’s colder months, nothing hits the spot quite like a roasted sweet potato. There are a number of varieties to choose from, each with varying levels of sweetness, and while they’re commonly sold at supermarkets and from the back of trucks, now you can buy them from vending machines.
Our Japanese-language reporter Ninoude Punico recently stumbled upon one of these machines at the Sogo department store in Yokohama, and what caught her by surprise was the fact that it wasn’t just doling out hot sweet potatoes, but cold ones too.
▼ How cute is this vending machine?
With the hot potatoes lined up on the left and the cold ones on the right, Punico decided to purchase one of each to see what they were like.
When her hot purchase clattered out into the tray below, she found it was delivered in a long cylindrical can, with “This can must be returned please” written across it.
The can was hot, but not uncomfortably so, and when she opened it up, she found her sweet potato purchase was wrapped in a plastic bag that resembled newspaper packaging.
▼ A nice nod to the old days, when vendors wrapped sweet potatoes in newspaper for customers.
She dutifully placed the can in the returns box, and upon opening her package, Punico received another surprise — there wasn’t just one sweet potato in her hand but three!
▼ These were the Beni Haruka variety, and each pack weighs around 190 grams (6.7 ounces).
▼ Punico bit into one of the piping hot morsels and smiled in delight at its sticky sweetness and golden flesh.
It was rich, gooey, and surprisingly soft, melting away in every bite without any effort. It was much higher quality than she expected from a vending machine purchase, but how would the cold ones taste by comparison?
▼ The cold potatoes felt as if they’d come straight out of the refrigerator.
Strangely, this coldness made the potatoes seem even more sweet. It was as if the sweetness had condensed through the chilling process, and Punico absolutely loved them. She plans to enjoy them as a healthy alternative to a post-dinner ice cream, as the gooey centres give them a nice, creamy mouthfeel that’s perfect for dessert.
These vending machine sweet potatoes are definitely worth trying, and at 500 yen (US$4.40) per bag, they’re reasonably priced, considering their scarcity at the moment. The vending machine can be found at the “Imo Expo” (“Potato Expo”) venue on the eighth floor of Sogo Yokohama until 20 December, and after that it will be moved to the food section on the second basement level until 31 January, 2022.
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