Japanese Potato Salad

by Karen on Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Post image for Japanese Potato Salad

One of the highlights of a Japanese meal for me is the potato salad. Leave it to the Japanese to elevate something so prosaic into a light, subtle and creamy dish, the farthest thing from the heavy oily mess that we often associate with potato salad. One bite of this delight and it transports me back to my childhood when I played tennis and carbo-loading was a great excuse to eat mounds of Japanese potato salad and Airheads (breakfast of champions). This was heaven for a kid who grew up in a very healthy household that didn’t even have peanut butter. Needless to say Japanese potato salad quickly became a guilty pleasure of mine. Nowadays I rarely get the chance to have this potato salad, only when I eat out at a Japanese restaurant or raid Valerie’s refrigerator and her aunt happens to have made a big ol’ batch of it. So I thought, why not make it myself? Turns out, it’s really simple to make.

There are a few key differences between Japanese potato salad and the traditional American potato salad. The first is the level of acidity. While American potato salad is usually spiked with a sour element such as buttermilk or vinegar, Japanese potato salad has practically none. If anything, sugar is sometimes added to the mixture or I’ve even had Japanese potato salad with chopped apples or raisins. The second main difference is the mayonnaise used. The traditional Japanese mayonnaise used is Kewpie brand, which is available in any Japanese market or sometimes you can find it in the international aisle at markets. It has a very different flavor from American brand mayonnaise and is generally less sour. I love this mayonnaise and use it often outside the context of Japanese recipes so I recommend you try it out. Of course, the world will not end if you use an American mayonnaise here.

I used a recipe from Just Hungry, a great Japanese food blog!

- 3 medium sized boiling potatoes, like Yukon Gold
- 1 small carrot
- 1 small Japanese cucumber or seedless cucumber*
- ½ small yellow onion
- 1 egg
- ½ cup of Japanese mayonnaise, like Kewpie brand
- Kosher or sea salt

*Japanese cucumbers are have less seeds and water and a more intense cucumber flavor. You can substitute with Persian cucumbers or English cucumbers. Try to find ones that have few seeds.

Place your washed and unpeeled potatoes, carrots and egg in a pot of water. Bring to a boil and after about 10 minutes, remove the egg. Peel and dice up the egg. Boil the carrots and potatoes until they are cooked through (the carrots will probably cook through first). You can check this by sticking a knife in the thickest part of the vegetable and it should release easily if it’s done.

In the meantime, very thinly slice the cucumber into coins. Slice the onion equally thinly from pole to pole. Sprinkle a large pinch of salt over them and let them sit in a bowl to release their liquid. This should sit for at least 10 minutes.

When the carrots are done, peel them and thinly slice them. Peel the potatoes while they are hot, your fingers will take a bit of a beating but you can use a towel to help. Dice them up and sprinkle a bit of salt over them and let them cool. In a bowl, combine the potatoes, carrots and egg.

Lightly squeeze the liquid out of the cucumbers and onions and add to the bowl. Add ½ cup of mayonnaise to the bowl and mix together.

Taste before adding any more salt as the mayonnaise and vegetables will have some salt in them already. Cover and refrigerate for an hour so the flavors get nice and happy. Enjoy!

{ 23 comments }

Belinda @zomppa April 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Good to know! I still have a bit of a hard time with too acidic versions, so this is my kind of potato salad!

Deana April 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Yumumumumumummm. I am a potato salad FANATIC and I love learning more variations! PS I always use a pair of latex gloves for peeling potatoes straight out of the boiling water, it makes things a lot easier!

Karen April 23, 2011 at 10:19 am

Thanks for the tip Deana!

Valerie April 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Beautiful! Ooo you’ve got me cravin’ now. And look at that, my auntie’s famous! Gonna pass this along to her. :)

Karen April 23, 2011 at 10:19 am

O love her potato salad..

Jennifer (Delicieux) April 20, 2011 at 2:29 am

This looks so delicious! I’m not usually a fan of potato salads as I usually find them too heavy, but this looks divine! Trust the Japanese to fix something we Westerners over work.

deana@lostpastremembered April 20, 2011 at 7:09 am

Leave it to the Japanese to rework an American classic… cucumbers sound great in a potato salad and I have a homemade mayo recipe that is much like kewpie… will try one of these days… when the weather warms just a little bit more!!!

Karen April 23, 2011 at 10:20 am

Yeah homemade mayo works well here too, with the acid I would use a rice vinegar and some sugar

elle marie April 20, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Yes indeed! I’m a fan of QP, and Japanese potato salad, it reminds me a little of French potato salad that met England. I LOVVVVVVE my husbands. It’s been so long since I’ve had the traditional American version (was it heavy, greasy)? I can’t remember. Those carrots are tres cute, do they come like that in the U.S.?

Karen April 23, 2011 at 10:21 am

Yes carrots come cute in the States– not always but sometimes :)

Lana April 21, 2011 at 1:06 am

Karen, I love potato salads of any kind! Serbian version features just potatoes, red onions and a vinaigrette – my kids devour it by bowlfuls, and my American husband does not let me make the American version (which I also love:)
I am intrigued by this Japanese mayo – I make my own every 4-5 days (it’s so easy and tastes much better than store-bought – if I had Thomy mayonnaise here, I might reconsider:)
Aren’t the simplest foods sometimes most rewarding?

Karen April 23, 2011 at 10:22 am

Definitely– wow you make your own mayonnaise a lot– that’s great! Homemade is really the best.

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen April 21, 2011 at 3:40 am

I never even knew there was a Japanese version of potato salad. I’ve learned something new today.

justcooknyc April 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm

love the photos of your potato salad, but am i going to sound really weird and say that i’ve never heard of Japanese potato salad. and i’ve gone out for a LOT of Japanese food in my life.

Karen April 27, 2011 at 12:59 pm

O well I hope you make it soon– LOVE this stuff

Legume April 26, 2011 at 6:54 am

Japanese cuisine is truly an art

Veronica May 2, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Japanese potato salad…say whaaat?! Why haven’t I heard about this sooner! Well, it definitely sounds and looks delicious.

Lan May 13, 2011 at 11:56 am

is this in any way similiar to the potato salad you sometimes get in korean banchan?

Karen May 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Yes very similar– one of my favorite banchans

Linda September 20, 2011 at 3:41 am

I just happened to have this Japanese Potato Salad for breakfast, three days in a row at the Mandarin hotel in Yokohama. Wow, it was so light and delicious!

Karen September 23, 2011 at 10:24 am

O I could do Japanese potato salad for 3 days in a row, no prob!

Emma February 19, 2012 at 4:31 am

Thank you for this recipe! Easy to follow, looks like the photo and tastes great, even with using Aldi’s light Mayo rather than Kewpie (I’m in the UK).
I can get Leslie easily enough, I just wanted to use what I already had.
I put a bit too much salt on, though….

Tina@foodboozeshoes October 1, 2012 at 2:05 am

Thanks for the great recipe and explanation. I like all potato salad, but I think the Japanese version is one up on the others..!

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