Japanese Style Potato Salad

Japanese Style Potato Salad. As promised, I am connecting the previous travel post with a Japanese recipe… a recipe that’s simple to prepare, and quite delicious. I first stumbled upon the recipe a few months back, and I was so eager to try it. To me it sounded so unique… I mean, I’d never thought of adding raw vegetables to a potato salad. And I’m not just talking about maybe some raw onion…. like the Romanian oriental salad I love… but adding raw cucumbers, carrots, and radish. It was a new concept for me. The idea of adding raw veggies in a potato salad was simply brilliant.
So on my trip to Japan, I ended up getting a taste of the Japanese potato salad… right away. Like on my plane ride in:). When given the choice on my flight, between a Western style meal or a Japanese style meal, I quickly, without hesitation, chose the latter. As part of the Japanese meal, we were served the Japanese potato salad as an appetizer. Topped with a small boiled quail egg, the potato salad was delicious… not to mention, how super cute it was with the small quail egg:).
The potato salad can easily vary from recipe to recipe, so you can use whatever vegetables you like, really. The potato salad on the plane included some green beans that still had a bit of a bite to them… but I’ve even seen salads that include corn. So definitely lots of variations. And even though I’ve left all my veggies raw, some recipes have you lightly blanch the carrots… it’s really up to you, how you like to make it. That’s what’s nice about this salad, you can customize it as you like. But the fresh flavor of the raw veggies and their slight crunch, makes this potato salad rather unique.
And while in Japan, browsing through the beautiful department stores, I always made it a point to go down to the basement levels. Because that’s where food came alive… all sorts of foods…  displayed ever  so beautifully! Picture perfect, really. At times, I almost thought they were fake… so good they looked! And it was there I found tall, lovely mounds of Japanese potato salads…. ready to be scooped and packaged for you to take home. I found, that in Japan, you really, really don’t need to cook anything at home:)…
But this is my version of the Japanese potato salad. Feel free to adapt the recipe and make it your own. You can always add less veggies, more potatoes, more mayonnaise, or if you want, skip the mayonnaise and just add olive oil… of course, you can par-cook some of your veggies if you like. And while I feel eggs make the salad, it’s tasty without them as well.  Hope you enjoy…             

Note: Normally, Japanese mayonnaise is used, which is slightly different than the American version… I tried to mimic the Japanese mayo, by adding some wasabi, a tiny bit of sugar, etc. I was very cautious:) with amount of sugar in my dressing… but you can definitely add a bit more if you prefer. Some use equal amounts of sugar and vinegar… Japanese foods tend to be a bit on the sweeter side.    

Tip: You can certainly add ham to the potato salad if you like… 

You will need:
3 russet potatoes(650 grams), you can use Yukon Gold if you like
1 garlic clove, sliced
salt, to taste

Vegetables: can always adjust amounts to taste… and try other vegetables such as green beans 
1-2 medium cucumbers (Persian preferred or smaller kirby w/ small seeds) 100 grams, thinly sliced
1/3 cups white onion, thinly sliced ( 80 grams)
1 large carrot, thinly sliced (80 grams)
4 radishes, thinly sliced
salt as needed
3 TBS mayonnaise (can use more if you like)
1/2 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp wasabi powder, optional
1/2 tsp sugar
1 TBS rice vinegar, or as needed( see below, adjusting seasoning)
salt/pepper to taste
Extra: you can easily add some chopped ham, if you like… or other meat of choice. 
2 boiled eggs, optional, but tasty
green onion, optional, but really good
Adjust seasoning/taste at the end with:
additional rice vinegar, oil, salt, pepper ( I ended up adding 2TBS oil+ 2TBS vinegar and a bit of salt and pepper to balance out the salad to my liking )  
1. Put the potatoes in a pot and add water until covered. Add garlic clove and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer and cook the potatoes until they are very soft (about 15-20 minutes). I usually do this in my pressure cooker for 7-9 minutes. 
Note: If you like your carrots soft, you can add them in with the potatoes(end of cooking time) and cook them for a couple of minutes or so. I chose to leave mine raw… love the crunch and vitamins:) 
2. Boil eggs, if using. Peel and chop/slice most of the egg. You can keep half a yolk for garnish, if desired. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, combine the cucumber, onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste). Toss to coat evenly with salt and set aside. After about 15 minutes, use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid from the onions and cucumbers as you can. Then set aside.
4. In a medium sized bowl, add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste),  the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, wasabi(if using)  and pepper. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
5. Drain potatoes and add the hot potatoes to the mayonnaise dressing( you can remove garlic or leave in). Stir and mash up the potatoes as you combine with the dressing. You want some chunks of potatoes as well as some mashed potatoes.
6. Add the cucumbers, onion, carrot, sliced radishes, and egg to the potato mixture and stir to combine. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning and texture by adding a a bit of  oil/mayo and /or vinegar as needed, to your taste. 

Note: You can reserve an egg yolk and grate it over the potato salad for a different presentation.  Also, you can sprinkle salad with chopped green onion, if desired.

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