Japanese Potato Salad
This flavorful and veggie-packed Japanese potato salad is not your typical potato salad (unless, of course, you live in Japan). It’s light and fluffy and creamy and crunchy and everything you never knew you needed in one perfect side dish.
There are a few dishes in Japan that aren’t traditional to the culture, but the Japanese took the Western idea and perfected it, IMHO. I realize that’s a big statement, but seriously, once you try this you’ll understand.
For one, this potato salad has tons of vegetables. Carrots, cucumber, and onions. Ok, before you run away, let’s talk about onions for a second.
I know, bad breath bomb. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way. All you have to do is slice your onions paper thin (I recommend using my favorite mandolin), and soak them in cold water for about 30 minutes. The soaking takes off that onion edge, leaving behind a mild, crunchy onions. The super thin slices are more palatable and have more surface area touching the water, so it’ll soak faster. If you are a raw onion hater (so am I, most of the time), then give this trick a shot. You’ll be amazed. Keep in mind that different varieties of onions take longer to soak, so plan for that. The rule of thumb is the stronger and more pungent the onion, the longer it takes.
Just like any dish, there are so many different ways of making Japanese potato salad. I personally think the perfect balance of flavors and textures includes yellow flesh potatoes (the lower starch content makes a creamier potato salad, so don’t sub with russets), seedless & thin-skinned cucumber, carrots, onions, hard boiled egg, good quality (preferably free-range and uncured) ham, and Japanese mayo. What? I know, the Japanese have even improved on the all-American staple, and it’s called Kewpie Mayonnaise. And if you haven’t tried it, I recommend going to an Asian market or a well stocked grocery store and giving it a try.
Unfortunately, it’s one of those highly processed packaged foods, so I’ll have a homemade version on here very soon that’ll knock your socks off. But until then, you can use the super yummy MSG-ridden kewpie or less-processed other mayo of your choice.
Whatever mayo you decide on, you’ll want to give this potato salad a try. You may never go back.
- 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes*, scrubbed clean and quartered
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced very thin on a mandolin
- 1 large Japanese cucumber or 3 baby cucumbers, sliced very thin on a mandolin
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half pole-to-pole and sliced very thinly on a mandolin
- 4-5 slices Black Forest ham, preferably uncured and free-range, diced
- 4 large eggs, preferably local and free-range
- 1/4 cup Japanese mayonnaise
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Place the onions in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak for at least 30 minute, replacing the water every 10~15 minutes. Rinse and drain thoroughly.
- Place the cucumber slices in a medium colander and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set over a small bowl and let the excess liquid drain for 20 or so minutes. Rinse off excess salt and place back in the colander and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, add about 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Once the water is at a rolling boil, carefully add the eggs. Cook for 9.5 minutes. Immediately drain the eggs into a colander and place in ice water to stop cooking. Once cooled, peel the eggs (the shells should come off relatively easily), dice, and set aside.
- Add the potatoes to a medium sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and let cook until tender, about 8~10 minutes. Drain, and place back in the pot pan with the heat on low, shaking back and forth until water evaporates. Take off of the heat and place potatoes in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until relatively smooth.
- Add the onions, cucumber, ham, eggs, carrots, and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature or cold.**
- *Yukon Gold or other yellow flesh potatoes create the ideal creamy texture for this dish. Do not sub with starchier russets or waxier red potatoes. You could peel the potatoes, but I prefer them with the skin on.
- **IF you have any leftovers, this potato salad makes a fantastic sandwich the following day.