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Japanese Potato Salad is a popular side dish that brings a unique twist to conventional potato salad. Its roots are Western, but it has been adapted to suit the Japanese palate, and it is a common feature in bento boxes and family gatherings in Japan.
Unlike its Western counterpart, Japanese Potato Salad is partially mashed, resulting in a creamy, soft texture. It’s also distinguished by its mix of vegetables — often cucumber, carrots, and onions — which are left crunchy to provide a delightful contrast. The salad is brought together with Japanese mayonnaise, giving it a richer, slightly sweet flavor that’s truly distinctive.
The preparation time is about 20 minutes, and the cooking time is around 15 minutes. This recipe yields 4 servings. So, are you ready to bring a taste of Japan to your table with this comforting, flavorful side dish? Let’s get started!
Preparation of Ingredients
Potatoes: Start by peeling the potatoes and cutting them into 1-inch cubes. This size is perfect as it allows the potatoes to cook quickly and evenly.
Carrot: Peel the carrot and slice it into thin rounds or half-moons if the carrot is large. This shape will ensure that the carrot cooks quickly and provides a nice crunch in the salad.
Cucumber: For the cucumber, slice it into thin rounds as well. Japanese potato salad often features unpeeled cucumber for extra color and crunch, but you can peel it if you prefer.
Onion: The onion should be very finely chopped, as its flavor will be raw in the salad. If you’re sensitive to the strong flavor of raw onion, you can rinse the chopped onion under cold water to remove some of its bites.
Peas: If you’re using frozen peas, be sure to thaw them before adding them to the salad.
Dressing: For the dressing, you’ll simply need to measure out your Japanese mayonnaise, rice vinegar, granulated sugar, and Dijon mustard. The mayonnaise provides a creamy base, the vinegar adds tang, the sugar a touch of sweetness, and the mustard a bit of spice. You’ll also want to have salt and pepper on hand to season the salad to your liking.
With your ingredients prepped, you’re ready to start cooking!
- Cook the potatoes and carrots: Place the diced potatoes and sliced carrots in a large pot, and add enough water to cover them. Add a generous pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and let the vegetables simmer. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook, or the potatoes will fall apart when mixing the salad.
- Drain and cool the vegetables: Once cooked, drain the potatoes and carrots and let them cool completely. To speed up the cooling process, you can spread them out in a single layer on a large plate or baking sheet.
- Prepare the cucumber and onion: While the potatoes and carrots are cooling, sprinkle the sliced cucumber and chopped onion with a little salt. Let them sit for about 10 minutes. The salt will draw out excess water from the vegetables. After 10 minutes, squeeze the cucumber and onion gently to remove the excess water. This step helps to keep your salad from becoming watery.
- Prepare the dressing: In a small bowl, mix together the Japanese mayonnaise, rice vinegar, sugar, and Dijon mustard until well combined. Taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.
- Combine the salad: In a large bowl, combine the cooled potatoes and carrots, the squeezed cucumber and onion, and the thawed peas. Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Using a large spoon, gently mix until all the ingredients are well coated with the dressing. Some of the potatoes might get mashed during the mixing, which is perfect for this salad as it creates a creamier texture.
- Chill the salad: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the salad in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. This resting time allows the flavors to meld together beautifully.
- Serve the salad: Give the salad a good stir before serving. If needed, adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper. Enjoy your Japanese potato salad as a side dish or a part of your bento lunch!
For the salad:
- 4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled
- 1 large carrot
- 1 small cucumber
- 1/2 small onion
- 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
- Salt, to taste
For the dressing:
- 3/4 cup Japanese mayonnaise (like Kewpie brand)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Preparation of Ingredients
Dice peeled potatoes and carrots into 1-inch cubes, slice cucumber, and finely chop onion. Rinse the onion under cold water to remove the bite. Thaw peas if frozen. Measure out ingredients for dressing - Japanese mayo, rice vinegar, sugar, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.
Boil potatoes and carrots until tender, drain and cool. Sprinkle cucumber and onion with salt, rest for 10 minutes, then squeeze out water. In a bowl, mix dressing ingredients. In a larger bowl, combine cooled veggies, squeezed cucumber and onion, peas, and dressing. Mix gently, and mash some potatoes for a creamier texture. Chill for an hour before serving. Adjust seasoning if needed.
Please note that Japanese mayonnaise has a different flavor profile from regular mayonnaise due to the inclusion of ingredients like apple or rice vinegar and MSG. If you cannot find it, you can use regular mayo with a dash of rice vinegar and a pinch of sugar as a substitute, but the taste will slightly differ.
Japanese Potato Salad is a versatile dish and can be served in several ways:
- As a side dish: It pairs wonderfully with grilled meats or fish.
- Bento Box: This salad is often found in Japanese bento boxes along with other delicacies.
- Sandwich Filling: You can also use it as a filling for sandwiches. Japanese Potato Salad sandwiches are quite popular in Japan.
Storage and Reheating
Leftover Japanese Potato Salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Because of the mayonnaise in the dressing, it’s not recommended to leave the salad out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
This salad is best enjoyed cold and does not require reheating. If it seems a little dry after being in the fridge, you can freshen it up with a small dollop of mayonnaise.
Japanese Potato Salad is quite adaptable. Here are a few variations you can try:
- Add Proteins: For a more substantial salad, add diced ham or boiled eggs.
- Other Vegetables: Try adding other vegetables like corn or thinly sliced radishes for extra crunch.
- Spice it Up: For a spicy kick, mix in a bit of wasabi or a Japanese seven-spice blend (Shichimi Togarashi) into the dressing.