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Jamaican Pum-Pum Yam: What Is It & How To Cook It

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

You’ve probably heard of Jamaican pum-pum yam and are interested in how to make it. Pum-pum yam is a type of yellow yam. It is called a “pum pum” because it looks like a certain part of a woman’s body that is nicknamed the pum pum in some parts of Jamaica.

My cousin introduced me to this dish for the first time. While her husband is actually from Trinidad, it seems like a word about it got around. Now, he was pretty inappropriate when he was trying to describe just what it tastes like and why they named it after a specific female body part-I will save you the graphic details. Just know that while I didn’t enjoy being regaled with a very long discussion about why this dish came to be, I certainly enjoyed the end results.

This yam is lighter than the other yams you may see. It is a light yellow, not dark yellow or orange like some other options. It is found quite easily throughout the markets of Jamaica, and you can find it in other areas of the world too, though it might have a different name.

When you see the pum pum in the marketplace, you may think that it is ugly, but that is good. These vegetables aren’t mass produced and are usually organic, which means they are healthier to eat. Ignore the outside and instead focus on the light, sweet insides.

A pum pum is a root vegetable that looks extremely ugly on the outside and it looks like it would be hard to prepare and cook. However, once you’ve done it a few times, you will be able to quickly make it again and again.

What Is A Yam?

When we say yams, there tends to be a bit of confusion as to what they are exactly. The truth is that what most people call a yam is actually a sweet potato. It’s possible that unless you are from the islands or another place that is more transparent with labeling, you may have never actually had a yam.

The orange colored root vegetables that you eat is actually a sweet potato, not a yam. We call them yams because we don’t know any better. The longer, red-skinned sweet potatoes are actually potatoes as well.

A true yam is a starchy, edible root that is generally found in the Caribbean, but it has been imported to America for some time. It is rough and scaly, which is why it hasn’t found a lot of widespread popularity in the US. It isn’t something we are used to seeing on our shelves. Yams are lower in beta carotene than a traditional sweet potato.

The United States Department of Agriculture adds to the confusion because they require the term “yam” to actually be accompanied by the term “sweet potato.”

If you are making pum pum yam, you should know that a true yam isn’t as sweet as a sweet potato. They tend to be more like white potatoes. You can substitute them into recipes, but it may change the cooking time.

Yams have more fat, carbs, fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin E than sweetpotatoes do and can be very nutritious as long as they are not slathered in butter and salt.

How To Make Pum Pum Yam

Pum pum yam is a great dish that is simple to make. Many in Jamaica will make it as a side dish for other means when they need something that is a little starchy but not too heavy.

Ingredients

  • 2 Lbs. Pum Pum Yam
  • 1 Teaspoon. Salt
  • 2 Cups Of Water

Instructions

  1. To make a pum pum yam, start by putting a pot of salted water on high heat.
  2. Wash the excess dirt off of the yam. There will be a lot of excess dirt, so you may want to use a potato scrubber.
  3. Carefully peel the yam. You can use a traditional peeler, but be careful. The skin of the yam may cause itching on your skin if it touches it, so you need to be careful. You can stop the itching by funning your arm or hands under cold water.
  4. Cut the peeled yam into chunks or slices of your choice. The smaller the chunks, the faster it will cook. Wash these chunks as well.
  5. Put the yam pieces into the pot, cover, and cook the yam for about 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and serve hot. Top with salt or pepper. Some will add butter.

People will serve this dish alone or they will combine it with plantain to help enhance the taste. It makes a great side for chicken dishes, fish, or other white meats.

While the pum pum yam doesn’t look all that appetizing when you first look at it, you will soon discover that it is a great dish. The light taste easily pairs with almost anything that you want to pair it with and the texture is so similar to that of a potato that you can use it to sub into recipes.

It might be hard to find the pum pum yam at your local markets, so try to go some Jamaican owned grocery stores, if you have any nearby. You can also check African-owned stores or other markets that have fruits and vegetables you won’t see at a traditional grocery store. They may even be able to give you some great tips to prepare the pum pum yam.

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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