Sweet potatoes are native to Latin America and they have been part of the Mexican diet for thousands of years. Their Spanish name, camote, derives from the Nahuatl camotli, and they are either white or yellow-fleshed tubers.
By tradition, sweet potatoes are used for making candies. Mexican cooks produce many different varieties of sweet potato treats from crystallized sweet potatoes (sold whole or in thick slices) to camotes de Santa Clara (puréed and cooked with sugar syrup then molded into small cigar-shaped bars) to baked or roasted dishes.
In central Mexico, and especially in Mexico City, you can still find street vendors who have mobile wood ovens. These ovens are like a push cart and the owners bake sweet potatoes (and often plantains) as they roam the city. As they move slowly down the street, they emit loud, piercing whistles that announce they're around, so you can come out and buy their delicious treats. Usually served drizzled with condensed milk, jam, chocolate, or honey, they’re a simple but delicious dessert.
For my version of camotes asados, I have drawn from childhood memories of these bites and from the native flavor combinations of my hometown of Monterrey, where piloncillo and pecans are abundant and are popular ingredients in the local gastronomy.
These camotes asados, roasted in a hot oven until tender and soft, are served with melted butter and chopped piloncillo and then sprinkled with chopped pecans. The finished dish tastes almost like pie but without the guilt of all the calories that come with pastry! And since they are so good for you, go ahead and drizzle some crema over the top. Delicious!