Thursday, July 7, 2011

Japanese Potato Salad

I have a thing for potato salad and also for cucumbers so what could be better than a potato salad that includes both of them? I recently bought a container of Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise (ranked as one of the top 100 foods in last year's Saveur Magazine) and needed to use it. I wasn't in the mood to make Sushi as this brand of mayonnaise mixed with either chili oil or Sriracha makes the best spicy tuna sauce. So, I decided to replicate the Japanese Potato Salad that I sometimes get in restaurants. I called a Japanese friend and asked her how to make it, but like many good home cooks, her response included phrases like - "you add in enough Kewpie mayonnaise to make it moist." However, I did discover the secrets of Japanese Potato Salad. First, the potatoes need to be cooked until they can be easily mashed and the thinly sliced onions and cucumbers need to be presalted and drained. The carrot, that adds such pretty color, needs to be boiled and sliced and the dressing is simply Kewpie Mayonnaise, salt, pepper and a bit of sugar. We served it with Terriyaki Baked Chicken. It was so good that I had to make a second batch as my son and his girlfriend and I devoured it in one sitting! The contrast of the cucumbers to the mashed potatoes was wonderful. Just for the record, the second batch, which got to sit in the fridge over night was probably even better, but it's unlikely that we will wait that long. So, if you like potato salad, you need to try this recipe!

Japanese Potato Salad

2 large Russet Potatoes or 4 regular potatoes, washed with peels left on
1 Japanese Cucumber or 2 pickling cucumbers or 1/3 of a large hothouse cucumber thinly sliced - cut pieces in half if the cucumber is very fat
1/3 cup of thinly sliced red onion (cut into small pieces about the same length as cucumbers)
1 carrot, peeled and left whole
1 cup of Kewpie Mayonnaise (can also used Best Foods or Hellman's)
1 1/2 teaspoon Salt - 1/2 teaspoon for salting cucumbers and onions, 1 teaspoon for salad
1/4 teaspoon of Pepper
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon of sugar to taste, depending on kind of mayonnaise

In a large pot, put in potatoes and cover with water about 1" over the potatoes. Bring to a boil and add carrot - cook carrot for about 15 minutes and remove. Cut into thin rings. Continue to cook potatoes until they can be pieced easily with a fork (this takes less time with smaller potatoes - about 20 - 30 minutes or up to 45 minutes for larger potatoes). Meanwhile, put cucumbers and onion into a small bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Leave until potatoes are done.

When potatoes are done, drain water, peel potatoes and cut into a very small dice. Put in a large bowl. Squeeze juice out of cucumbers and onions and rinse with a little fresh water and drain. Put them in with the potatoes and add carrots. In another small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, salt, pepper and sugar. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Mix in with potato mixture and stir. It is okay if the potato mashes, that is part of the texture of this kind of potato salad. Smooth top and place in refrigerator and chill until cold.

Five Element Analysis

Potatoes are very Earthy so Potato Salad is clearly an Earth Food. The carrot enhances that and so does the cucumber. The mayonnaise and red onion bring in the Metal Element. This dish therefore needs to be served with other dishes. We added a spicy Terriyaki Chicken which added the Water Element from the soy sauce, the Fire Element from the Red Chilis and the Wood Element from the chicken. Then, this became a balanced meal.

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