I recently got around to reading the Japanese Farm Food, a cookbook mémoir, from Nancy Singleton Hachisu. In addition to running an English school, the author is also actively involved with Slow Food Japan, so I was looking forward to discovering her Japanese terroir. In the end, I didn’t jot down as many recipes as I’d hoped, mostly because some key ingredients can be challenging to find in Taiwan, or simply because I don’t have the logistics (yet) to carry out some of her recipes. For sure, I envy her country home kitchen, but for now, my minimal Taiwanese kitchen will do just fine.
One of the recipes that made the cut happened to be the Japanese-syle potato salad. The recipe didn’t look too daunting and the ingredients simple to get. Fortunately, the potato season is upon us, here in Taiwan. I’ve seen some pop up at a few stalls at the organic farmers’ markets, and Carrefour has even temporarily replaced the U.S. imported potatoes with ones produced in Taiwan. So as a mini-cooking project, I gathered all the required ingredients, and cooked my first Japanese-style potato salad ever, the first of many more to come, at least while the potato season lasts!
As Nancy points outs, unlike Western potato salad, the Japanese version requires first mashing the potatoes before adding the other vegetables, so really, it’s like a cousin of the mashed potatoes. And actually, I ended up cooking too many potatoes, so some were put aside to be consumed later as mashed potatoes.
With temperatures peaking up as of late, this cold Japanese-style potato salad is just perfect, but not really a substantial dish on its own. I’m thinking some mackerel in escabèche could work wonderfully, and also make for another fun mini-cooking project, so we’ll see. I’m still trying to find another kind of meat or dish that’ll pair well, but drawing a blank, so dear readers, suggestions are welcomed!
One last note about the book, I recommend it to anyone interested in Japanese cooking, as I read through it, I discovered another facet of Japanese food, one that is more rustic and focused on simple ingredients. The author also got me totally fascinated with the existence of artisanal Japanese charcoal used for grilling, which speaks for how hardcore Japanese can be with their food.
Adapted from Japanese Farm Food from Nancy Singleton Hachisu.
Drawing insipration from the bounty of the farmers’ market, I added some jicama, for some crunch, and broccoli, for color, to the recipe. In retrospect though, I’d omit the broccoli which doesn’t fare too well after one or two days, and I’d also leave out the cucumbers indicated in the recipe from the book because I find the jicama to be a perfect substitute for it.
- 8 large potatoes
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 medium jicama
- 5 spoonfuls of your favorite mayonnaise (the author makes her own mayonnaise, but I’m a fan of Kewpie, and love Bénédicta which unfortunately isn’t sold in Taiwan).
- 2 tablespoons of your favorite vinegar (五印醋, for me).
- Cook the potatoes in a boiling water bath, or by steaming them in a rice cooker. With the latter option, which I privilege, make sure to put a small stainless still grid at the bottom to avoid the potatoes from behind in direct contact with the pot.
- Peel, cut the jicama in small cubes, and set aside.
- Peel, cut the carrots in small cubes, and blanch them. Make absolutely sure to not overcook the carrots or it’ll turn into mush when everything will get mixed together.
- Check if the potatoes are ready by sticking a knife in it, if it goes through like butter, it’s ready, and you can start peeling them, be careful, it is still hot!
- Mash the potatoes, and let it cool.
- Once, the potatoes have cooled off, add the jicama, carrot, mayonnaise, vinegar and salt into the mashed potatoes, and gently mix.
- Taste, and adjust the mayonnaise, salt and vinegar to your liking.
- Let it cool in the fridge, and voilà!