I’ve been doing a lot of food blog surfing lately and stumbled upon a number of great Japanese home-cooking blogs. These are the foods that I miss the most — not sushi and the basic American-friendly foods you might find in the Japanese restaurants around here. The foods I miss are the ones that my friends’ mothers would serve us when they had us over for dinner. The mother in one household that my sisters and I visited often was a wonderful cook — I have great memories of the amazing dishes she would serve us. Before my parents moved away from Japan permanently, they had us all over for a farewell meal and she prepared all of my favorite dishes, included potato salad bread. I know, it’s starch on starch, but it was absolutely amazing.
Japanese potato salad is very different from German potato salad, which is what most of you are probably eating. The main difference between the two is that the Japanese version doesn’t use any vinegar and gets its seasoning from salt, pepper, and lots of mayonnaise — specifically, Kewpie mayonnaise. If you do a search for Japanese potato salad, 99% of the recipes you find will tell you to use Kewpie mayonnaise. This is the most popular brand of mayo in Japan. It’s a little yellower than other mayos because it only has egg yolks instead of some whole eggs, and is slightly sweeter and not as vinegary from a small amount of added sugar and a mixture of lighter vinegars. If you don’t have an Asian grocer that carries Kewpie mayonnaise, you can order it from Amazon or you can use Hellman’s if you really have to. But for goodness sake, don’t use Miracle Whip!
japanese potato salad
- 6 potatoes, boiled until tender, peeled, and cut into chunks
- 2 carrots, boiled until tender, peeled and sliced into rounds
- 1 Japanese cucumber (or 1/2 English cucumber or 2 Persian cucumbers)
- 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped finely
- 2 cups Kewpie mayonnaise
Slice the cucumber thinly and place in a strainer. Sprinkle some salt over the cucumbers and let them sit for at least 30 minutes to drain the water out of them. This will make them crispier when you add them to the potatoes and add a nice crunchy texture to counteract the creaminess of the potatoes. Mash the boiled potatoes lightly with a fork or potato masher — it’s okay to leave some chunks, but you’ll want to mash most of it. Add the sliced carrots to the potato mash and season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
When the potato and carrot mixture has cooled, mix in the chopped egg, drained cucumber, and the mayonnaise. Stir to incorporate the mayonnaise into everything. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If necessary, add more mayonnaise until it’s to your liking. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.