As a child, the melody of a passing ice cream truck was always exciting. As an adult in Japan, however, the closest I get to that feeling is hearing the mantra-like hawking of a kei truck lumbering through my neighbor with yaki-imo (baked sweet potatoes) roasting in the back.

You can eat yaki-imo as is for a delicious treat, but with a little effort, you can turn these morsels into a fun and easy introduction to the world of wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets).

Alongside the wider availability of refined sugar in the Edo Period (1603-1868), there came a craze for yōkan. These stiff jellies were usually made with adzuki beans and agar, though various versions including sweet potato imo-yōkan exist. With the simple addition of a few spices, this traditional Japanese treat can be transported to the Thanksgiving table — perfect if you’re already sick of pumpkin but haven’t yet had your fill of spice.