Whether it’s cameras, cars or TVs the Japanese have a tendency to take things invented in other countries and making them their own. This is especially true when it comes to food. Many “Japanese” dishes such as ramen, tempura and tonkatsu are more international in provenance than most menus would have you believe.
Potato salad is another dish that’s been reinvented in Japan and has become a household staple there. In the Japanese version, the potatoes are mashed with the dressing, and the salad is loaded with ham, carrots, and quick pickled cucumbers and onions. The resulting salad is a colorful mélange of creamy, crunchy, sweet, and savory that’s as fun to eat, as it is to look at. With more vegetables and less mayonnaise it’s also slightly healthier.
Mayonnaise is one of those divisive foods that people tend to either love or hate. The good news is that this potato salad tastes great with or without mayonnaise. If you happen to be in the camp of people that hates mayo or just want a lighter potato salad, replace the mayo with olive oil.
If you love mayo, try finding Kewpie brand, it comes in a clear plastic squeeze bottle with a red cap and can be found in most Asian grocery stores. It’s more acidic than other brands and has more flavor.
While unlikely, if you happen to have some leftovers, this potato salad is great in a sandwich the next day.
Japanese Potato Salad
- 5 Yukon Gold potatoes (800g), peeled and cut into 1/2” cubes
- 1 large carrot, peeled, quartered lengthwise, then cut into ¼” pieces
- 1 Japanese or Lebanese cucumber* (100g), thinly sliced
- 1/4 onion (60g), thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (preferably Kewpie)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar or honey
- black pepper to taste
- 4-5 slices ham (80g), chopped
- Put the potatoes and carrots in a pot and add water until covered by 1” of water. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook the potatoes until they are very soft (about 15-20 minutes).
- In a small bowl, combine the cucumber, onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Toss to coat evenly with salt and set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, add the other 1/2 teaspoon of salt, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and pepper. Whisk to combine.
- When the potatoes are cooked, drain and add the hot potatoes to the mayonnaise mixture. Use a large spoon or wooden paddle to stir, mashing up the potatoes as you go.
- Use your hands to squeeze as much liquid out of the onions and cucumbers as you can—the more water you remove, the crunchier the vegetables will be. Add the cucumbers, onion, and ham to the potato mixture and stir to combine. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 2 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a food blogger and photographer who spreads his passion for food through his websites norecipes.com and wanderingcook.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blogs in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.