If you’re going to cook Japanese at home, you’re going to need some pointers! Join chef, food writer and MasterChef UK winner Tim Anderson on a journey back to the country that inspired him to learn to cook. Japanese potato salad is every bit as tangy, savory and welcome at a picnic as its American counterpart. Pick up some Kewpie mayo and prepare to master your favorite new side dish.
In some areas, ‘Japanese’ is synonymous with ‘superlative.’ Customer service. Trains. Lunch boxes. Therapy robots. Karaoke machines. Beauty found in the sadness of impermanence and imperfection.
And I would add potato salad to that list — Japanese potato salad is just the best. For the uninitiated, it is distinguished by three key components: salty-umami additions such as ham and MSG; thinly sliced crunchy vegetables; and potatoes that are roughed up, almost mashed, to create a light and creamy texture.
By the way, if you can get Kewpie mayo, a Japanese brand that is exceedingly delicious, feel free to use that instead of the mayo recipe provided below.
- 1/4 cucumber
- 1/2 carrot, peeled
- 1 pound 2 ounces potatoes, unlike most potato salads, fluffy, floury varieties like Maris Piper or King Edward work best
- 12 quail eggs
- 6 cornichons
- 2 slices ham
- 3 1/2 ounces mayonnaise
- 1/4 teaspoon dashi powder
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard
- Pinch of freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 bunch chives, finely chopped
For the potato salad
Slice the cucumber and carrot in half lengthways, then slice both very, very thinly – use a mandoline if you have one (watch your fingers!). Sprinkle these with salt and let them sit for about 20 minutes to tenderise, then rinse them under cold running water to remove the salt.
Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut into chunks, a generous 1 inch thick, similar to how you would prepare them for roasting. Transfer to a saucepan, cover with about 1 inch of water and add a big pinch of salt, then bring to a high simmer and cook until tender to the point of a knife. Remove the taters with a slotted spoon (keep the water) and leave to dry out and cool completely.
Bring the water to a rolling boil and add the quails’ eggs. Cook for 3 minutes and drain, then transfer to cold water to stop the cooking. Peel the eggs and cut them in half. Dice the cornichons and cut the ham into thin strips.
Combine the mayonnaise, dashi powder, mustard, pepper and a pinch of salt. Using a fork or sturdy whisk, mix this into the cooked and cooled potatoes with unnecessary roughness – you want to break up the potatoes and sort of half-mash them to give the salad a fluffy, creamy texture. Mix in the cucumber, carrots, cornichons, ham and quails’ eggs. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking, then serve, topped with chopped chives.