A Caribbean Yam Salad Recipe

Yam Salad Recipe

How to make the perfect yam salad

By Nigel Spence

Things are definitely heating up this Summer! Record-breaking temperatures around town are forcing barbecue grills out of hibernation early to prep for some good old “jerk” for the next two or three months. Not to mention the 2016 Olympics heats.

In one corner, USA’s Justin Gaitlin a claim seh this year he will be thundering past the lightning fast men, including Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, with a win for the gold, while in the other corner USA’s women’s 4 x 400m runners expecting big wins over the Jamaican women as they scored first place to Jamaica’s second in the final – beating their own competition record.  Hmm?

All I can say is I hope part of the training curriculum for the US Team includes a hearty serving of some good Jamaican Yellow Yam to level the playing field  Ha!

Ever since Usain created history as the fastest man in the world, curiosity had surrounded the keys to his lightning speed.  Expecting some rigorous training routine, or maybe some kind of superstitious ritual – eyes went wide with amazement when Bolt revealed the secret of his incredible speed – some good old Jamaican yellow yam!

This powdery, yellow starch has long been a favorite side dish in many Jamaican meals.  The most common preparation is boiling in water with a touch of salt until cooked.  The yam is considered ready for eating when it becomes soft enough for a fork to go through – similar to preparing boiled potatoes. Another less common method of preparation is to roast the yam, whole, (skin and all) on the grill.  After it is cooked it is pared into wedges and dabbed with butter/margarine and served with just about any meat or fish dish prepared, e.g. roasted salt fish, jerk pork or jerk chicken.

Apart from being a delicious food though, you’ll be happy to note that our yellow yam is proclaimed to have very nutritious properties.

The fiber contained is said to slow the release of sugar from blood into the cells making it a recommended food for diabetics to achieve better blood sugar control. The presence of certain B-Vitamins helps with energy while its potassium richness helps control heart rate and blood pressure.  Another function is to help the body rid itself of bad (LDL) cholesterol.  Yam takes 7 – 10 months to cultivate but is available year round.

Choosing a good piece of yellow yam can sometimes present a challenge.  I’ve learned over the years to stick to a middle piece and look for one that has a lot of visible fine hairs (roots). Buying a bad piece could result in a bitter taste and a chewy, water-logged texture.  When peeling the yam for boiling be sure to lather hands in cooking oil and lessen any contact with skin where possible or you may experience some itching for a while from the sticky sap.

More than any other season, summer brings us an exciting array of local fruits and vegetables and many exotic samples from around the Globe.  ‘Tis the Season to think and eat outside the box my friends – literally!

My latest master creation may not guarantee you a gold medal for lightning speed…but is a definite all-round winner on or off the track Enjoy!

Yam Salad Recipe:

3 lb yellow yam, boiled, large diced
1 1/2 lb potatoes, boiled, large diced
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/3 cup sweet relish
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 tablespoons red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons dill, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons mustard
1/2 cup of red onions, finely chopped


Add diced yam, potatoes and eggs to a large bowl while still warm.  Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl. Mix well using firm spatula or large spoon until all is incorporated. Serve warm as a side dish for barbequed or jerk meats.

Nigel Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Nigel freelanced at the Television Food Network for 3 years where he worked with culinary luminaries such as Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Chef Spence has appeared twice on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in cook offs against the Food Network star and was featured on CBS  when he appeared on Tony’s Table as well as ABC’s Neighborhood Eats, NBC’s  The Today Show , Sirius’ Everyday Living with Martha Stewart and TVFN’s Chopped. The acclaimed and New York Times-reviewed Ripe Kitchen and Bar is Mr Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavour.

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