I am doing a Japanese dinner for our Sunday meal. While there may be a main dish of meat and rice or noodles, Japanese meals usually include many small side dishes with a variety of textures, colors and tastes. The aesthetic— moritsuke—is that it is food for the soul as well as the stomach. I am making chicken teriyaki and this is one of the side dishes I decided should go with it.
I am still looking for the perfect Japanese potato salad. Daughter Miriam is still off onions, so I am adapting the onion-less version I made last time. Today, I am packing it with vegetables and adding red bell pepper and cucumber.
Karl’s Japanese Style Potato Salad without Onions II
¼-⅓ cup Japanese mayonnaise
1 Tbs. rice vinegar, unseasoned
½ tsp. Kosher salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 medium-large white potatoes
2 stalks celery
½ red bell pepper
1 Persian cucumber
1 large carrot
1. Put the dressing ingredients into a small bowl and mix them together.
Tip: Let the dressing meld as you prepare the rest of the salad.
Note: Do not add as much mayonnaise as you think you may need. If your salad still seems a bit dry after you have added the dressing you may always add more mayonnaise in order reach your desired consistency.
2. Place the potatoes in a pot and add water to cover by one inch.
Tip: If you have the time, use this whole potato method of boiling your potatoes. If you are in a hurry, you may cut them up and simmer until tender.
Note: While cutting up your potatoes will reduce the cooking time, it comes with certain problems. A cut potato causes the exposed surfaces to absorb water and the starches swell and burst open. This can add a somewhat slimy texture to your salad. Leaving the skins on the potatoes protects the starches inside.
3. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
Tip: Simmer medium potatoes for 15 minutes and 20 minutes for large potatoes.
4. Leave the lid on the pot and remove it from the heat.
5. Let the pot rest for 20-30 minutes, undisturbed.
Tip: The potatoes are done when a knife easily pierces the thickest potato chunk. This is an energy saving trick. The residual heat of the water will finish cooking the potatoes.
Note: While the potatoes are cooking prepare the rest of your vegetables.
6. Dice the celery and bell pepper into small (⅜ inch) pieces.
7. Use a vegetable peeler to remove about half of the cucumber peel.
Tip: Cut off a strip of the peel and rotate the cucumber. Skip a strip of peel and cut off another strip of peel. When you are done you should have a cucumber with six stripes—alternating peel and no peel.
Note: Cucumber peel can be fairly bitter. While you could simply remove all of the peel, the peel is in itself a source of flavor and vitamins. Use your own discretion.
8. Quarter the cucumber lengthwise and slice the spears into small pieces.
9. Use the course side of a box grater to grate the carrot.
Note: If you wish all of your vegetables to be of similar sizes, you may quarter the carrot lengthwise and slice it into small pieces.
10. Drain the potatoes well and remove the skins.
Tip: The skins will easily slip off of the potatoes.
11. Dice the potatoes into ¾ inch chunks.
12. Use a large whisk to partly mash the potatoes.
Tip: You want about a 50/50 ratio of mash to medium/small potato chunks.
13. Add the vegetables to the potatoes and pour the dressing over the salad.
14. Fold the dressing, potatoes, and vegetables until well blended.
Tip: You may be fairly rough with this mixing, because you want a fairly creamy consistency.
Note: Do not overwork the potatoes, as they may turn “gluey.”
15. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and let it meld, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
Tip: You may garnish the potato salad with black sesame seeds, or finely sliced green onion tops, or my younger daughter’s favorite, a serious sprinkle of shichimi tōgarashi.