Japanify: Yoko's Japanese Potato Salad*
It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I don't like eggs. But it's not as debilitating as many people think. I can always get a waffle or bagel with a side for breakfast and choose to ask for no egg with my ramen. Luckily I am okay with foodstuffs with eggs as an ingredient mixed in, so ice-cream and cookies are safe and encouraged.
One of the more challenging food items that requires surgical precision when separating unwanted egg particles is the potato salad. In the east and west, the potato salad pops up at picnics, on the dinner table or as a side at restaurants. More often than not I must decline the potato salad at potlucks or substitute it with coleslaw at a dining establishment.
One of the small obstacles when deciding to get married to my husband was the potato salad. Back in the day, I noticed that my soon-to-be husband was a huge Mr. Potato-Salad Head. When eating at izakayas, he would always order potato salads and savor each bite in pure bliss when it was a particularly pleasing recipe. If the potato salad passed my egg-free dissection test I would have a bite or two but otherwise, I could not understand his addiction.
When moving to the U.S. my husband's eyes lit up at the mountains of potato salads displayed in the deli sections of supermarkets. Unfortunately, after buying pints of potato salads in several locations, he discovered that potato salads in America are very, very different from potato salads in Japan. The salads here in the U.S. are much more sour and mustardy, while Japanese potato salads are sweeter and creamier, and often include bonuses like cucumbers and ham. My husband's search left him discouraged and left me with a lot of to-go plastic containers.
We've been in the U.S. for a year now, and my husband still occasionally buys potato salad perhaps thinking that one of the delis have changed their recipes. The latest episode was about three weeks ago when he bought a jam-packed pint at Andronico's, only to leave it rotting in the fridge until I had to scoop it out of its container and throw the mush away.
So I had an idea. Perhaps I could make a Japanese potato salad that requires no eggs. It would serve a double-duty purpose: I could perhaps find a potato salad that I could eat AND do my one heroic "Wifey"act of the year by making my husband one of his favorite dishes from his distant homeland.
This recipe was a hybrid of a few Japanese potato salad recipes I found in books and online. I was surprised to find that a few didn't call for eggs.
Yoko's Japanese Potato Salad
2 potatoes (I used two medium Russetts), cubed
1/4 onion thinly sliced
1 Japanese or Persian cucumber thinly sliced
Optional: 1/4 pound of ham, cut into strips
4-5 tbsp of Japanese mayonnaise (make your own!)
1 tsp of lemon juice
1 tbsp of rice vinegar
1 tbsp of sugar
1. Heat up a large pot with water to boil the potatoes.
2. While the potatoes are boiling, slice the onion and cucumbers very thin. In separate bowls, salt each generously and massage. Once they have been sitting in salt for five minutes, rinse them and then give them a good squeeze to wring out any excess water. Set aside.
3. Cut the ham in little strips.
4. Once the potatoes are tender, strain them and then transfer them to a mixing bowl. Lightly mash the potatoes.
5. Mix up the dressing ingredients. Drizzle all of it over the potatoes and mix well.
6. Add onions, cucumbers and ham to the mixing bowl and mix well.
7. Taste while you go and make sure everything is coated with the dressing. I found that I needed to add a few more squirts of mayo and sprinkle some salt as I mixed.
The result? Much better than I expected. Between the two of us, we ate the whole two-potato recipe for breakfast along with our big bowls of udon. I foresee making many more batches of this stuff and jam-packing it into those plastic to-go containers that I so diligently washed and saved.
*My name in the recipe denotes that this dish is egg-free!