When I was five, my family moved from the heart of the Silicon Valley (Cupertino) to the heart of Tokyo (Aoyama). Although it probably would have been a dream for trendy tots and tweens like Suri or Tavi, I was a tomboy who liked my suburban swing set in Cupertino and despised the high-rise buildings that suddenly surrounded me. And to make it worse, my older sister and I were thrown into a private, Catholic school.
I don't remember much from those three years I spent in Aoyama. But one of the few things that I remember is that my sister had a classmate who was addicted to Kewpie mayonnaise.
The stories I would hear from my sister about her classmate are still vivid today. Everyday this fourth-grader would open her packed lunch and her mom would dutifully pack portable packets of Kewpie mayonnaise in her bento bag. The girl would squirt packets of mayonnaise into her mouth like a kid today would his Go-Gurt. Kewpie was her Ritalin.
I moved to Tokyo again 20 years after my time there in the mid-eighties and found myself back in the land of mayonnaise maniacs. Apparently, the epidemic had spread well beyond that lone fourth-grader. The answer to everything was Kewpie mayonnaise:
Bland okonomiyaki? Mayo.
Unappetizing canned tuna? Mayo.
Raw cabbage too raw? Mayo.
Something's just not right with my pizza? Mayo.
Don't get me wrong, I love Kewpie mayo with my veggie sticks and takoyaki, but I draw the line at pizza. For the occasions that I do indulge in some Kewpie, I was curious to make my own - sans MSG and all the other stuff that's best left a mystery on the ingredients list.
After scouring various Japanese recipes for mayonnaise, it became apparent that the ingredients for homemade Japanese mayonnaise are very straight forward.
1 egg yolk at room temperature
pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp vinegar
180cc or 3/4 cup salad oil
1. In a glass mixing bowl combine egg yolk, salt and vinegar. Whisk very well.
2. Once the egg mixture is mixed up well, add the oil little by little.
I emphasize little by little so that the oil incorporates very well with the egg mixture.
3. The mixture should be thick.
4. Place in refrigerator for at least an hour before enjoying.
Look, I even found a perfect jar!
In a taste test alongside Kewpie (squeezed out on the left) there are noticeable differences.
My homemade mayo is less creamy and more tangy than Kewpie. I might try to increase the egg yolk ratio to vinegar next time. I may also try adding finely grated garlic next time to pump up the umami factor. The texture is also less firm than Kewpie. And because there is no MSG in the homemade version, it leaves a cleaner aftertaste than Kewpie. I can see a lot of potential for my next batch.
I am impressed with this homemade version. Even if the taste and experience is a little different from Kewpie, I really love the fact that I have homemade Japanese mayo stocked in my fridge.
If only I could reconnect with that now grown up fourth-grader and ask her what she thinks of my version of Japanese mayo. Squirt.