It seems that I have been cooking many dishes without knowing they are Japanese.
For example, this potato salad.
When I prepared it for my English friends one day for lunch, they said they never had anything like it before. It is very Japanese, they all said.
How can it be? I thought. It is cooked potatoes with mayonnaise.
We do add vegetables and proteins and this may be unique to our potato salad. There are many variations and each family has their own recipe. Mum always made with ham, boiled egg and sliced cucumber.
I had also used Japanese mayonnaise.
Japanese mayonnaise tastes a little different. Just like there are Hellmann’s and Heinz in the UK, we have Kewpie and Ajinomoto as major brands in Japan. They have been around since mid 1920’s.
Japanese mayonnaise uses soy-based vegetable oil and many of the same ingredients as US/UK ones, however, they don’t add water and uses apple or rice vinegar rather than distilled vinegar. It contains egg yolks rather than whole eggs.Using egg yolks and apple or rice vinegar and eliminating water gives Japanese mayonnaise a thicker texture than American mayonnaise and it is rich. My friends said it was more vinegary and resembled salad cream rather than mayonnaise.
I really missed it when I was an exchange student in America.
How to make Japanese potato salad
2 large potatoes
2 eggs, boiled
2-inch English cucumbers
1/2 tsp salt
2 slices ham
*2-3 tbspJapanese mayonnaise
1-2 tsp English mustard or whole grain mustard
Freshly ground black pepper or white pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1. Cook potatoes. You can boil, bake or microwave.
Conventional way is peel potato and boil in a pot. Cook until a skewer goes through. Drain water and put the pot back on the hob.
On the stove, evaporate water and moisture of the potatoes over medium-high heat about 45 seconds or so. When the potatoes are nice and fluffy, remove from heat.
Mash the potatoes roughly to leave some small chunks for texture. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool.
The cucumbers we get in Japan are much thinner and cruncher with less water so that we can simply slice them. I either de-seed or use outer flesh of English cucumber. Slice thinly and sprinkle 1/4 tsp of salt. Leave it for 15 minutes, then, rinse. Squeeze firmly to get rid of excess moisture.
Dice the sliced ham. I use good quality ham with no added water.
Mash up boiled eggs.
When potatoes are cooled, add ham, cucumber and eggs to potatoes.
Add salt, pepper, mayonnaise and mustard mix until incorporated.
If you do not have Japanese mayonnaise?
Although we like Japanese mayonnaise and it is possible to get them at a Chinese supermarket, they are rather pricey. I often use English salad cream or mayonnaise with a teaspoon of vinegar.
I prefer to go easy on mayo and season with salt, pepper and mustard.
There are lots of room for improvisation for this recipe. My auntie used to make it with sliced, quartered and boiled carrot and thinly sliced fresh onion. My friend once made it with tinned tuna and whole grain mustard. My elementary school used to serve it with sliced apple.
You can use wasabi instead of mustard or add a bit of Miso for saltiness. It is fun to experiment.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of potatoes in the UK. You can have a go at this salad if you get bored with your usual baked potatoes or chips.
My new knitting project this week?
I am already writing for winter issues.