My first experience enjoying Japanese potato salad was many years ago at a small restaurant in Vancouver, B.C.. If I remember correctly (it has been a few decades!) the potato salad was served with a delicious teriyaki steak, but the salad itself stood out for the flavors, and it is what I still remember to this day.
I must say, I was fortunate growing up for a period in Vancouver. It’s vibrant Asian community provided many opportunities to enjoy great authentic Japanese cuisine. Most Americans, when they think of Japanese food, think only of sushi, but that would be akin to thinking of American food as mainly hot dogs and hamburgers. There is so much more to explore!
In Japanese cooking, seasonal ingredients play a very large role both with vegetables and seafood, and that is beautifully reflected in one of my favorite cookbooks, Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu. I would highly recommend this book if you are looking to explore Japanese cuisine.
The recipe I feature below isn’t really original or new with the exception that I like to quick pickle the cucumbers and red onions. I find that it adds more depth of flavors and helps to take some of the bite out of the red onions. You could also just rinse the red onion in cold water to reduce the bite, but the hint of quickly pickled onions adds to the flavors.
With this salad, feel free to swap out ingredients depending what is in season. For example, in the summer fresh green onions can be substituted for red onions. Do you have fresh green or yellow peppers in the garden (or the store, for us boaters)? Feel free to chop and add. Finally, one of my favorite ways to garnish or add seasoning to the salad when it’s on the plate is a dash of shichimi togarashi, a Japanese red pepper seasoning mix.
Japanese Potato Salad
- 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1 6” piece of Japanese or English cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 medium carrot, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1/2 medium red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup corn
- 1 large egg, hard boiled and finely chopped
- 1/3 cup Japanese Mayonnaise (Kewpie)
- 2 Tblsp. rice vinegar
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Peel and cut potatoes into quarters (the same size). Place into a large pot, add cold water until it covers the potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are easily pierced by a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain the water and transfer potatoes to a bowl. Roughly mash the potatoes with a fork, leaving small chunks to add texture. Let cool.
- Peel the cucumber in strips, and thinly slice. Add to a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt, mixing with your hands to ensure cucumbers are evenly coated with salt. Set aside for 10 minutes. Rinse off cucumbers in a colander, then press gently with a clean cotton towel to remove moisture. Return to a bowl and add one tablespoon of rice vinegar, tossing well. Let set for 10 minutes to allow cucumbers to lightly pickle.
- Similarly, sprinkle the sliced red onions with salt and let set for 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water, let drain in a colander then transfer to a small bowl. Add one tablespoon of rice vinegar, tossing well. Let set for 10 minutes.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil, add thinly sliced carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Let cool.
- Add cucumbers, carrots, onions, corn, finely chopped egg and mayonnaise. Mix well, season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Let chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Can be prepared a day in advance.