Nearly all Americans of European descent grew up eating cured ham at the family Easter celebration. We were no different, even though our mom was Nisei – second generation Japanese born in America, and not European at all. What was different was what was served with that ham. No Easter was complete without mom’s amazing potato salad, for this was no ordinary store bought, white, mayonnaise-y American potato salad, but rather my mom’s distinctive Japanese-style fluffy spud salad with loads of crunch and color.
This potato salad was so special it had its own ceremonial bowl: a dusty rose colored, lidded, earthenware bowl with a single gray stripe whose sole purpose for over two decades was to display and transport the best potato salad in the world. My sister Kathy now has possession of this significant family heirloom, but its been many years since it has adorned an Easter table beside a sweet, country cured ham.
After all these years, I missed mom’s potato salad and decided to create a version that honors her’s, but is still uniquely my own. If you’ve ever had Japanese potato salad you understand its superiority. It’s fluffier because you mash the potatoes which serves to aerate them, if you will, and tiny bits of barely cooked corn and carrots add a vibrant color and pleasing crunch. Japanese love sweet and salty – mom would add bacon crumbles to her salad and a little sugar because Japanese mayo (Kewpie – soooo good!) is sweeter and lighter than American mayonnaise. It can be purchased at Asian markets (there were none of those where we grew up) but by adding a dash of sweetener, a little vinegar, and dab of mustard, you can modify what’s already in your fridge.
Are there any favorite dishes that mom used to make that grace your Easter or Passover table?
- 1 pound Idaho® russet potatoes (about 3 medium sized potatoes)
- ½ teaspoon salt*
- 1 egg
- ½ cup chopped carrots (about 1 large carrot)
- ½ cup cooked corn (fresh, frozen or canned)
- ½ cup diced English cucumber (about half a cucumber)
- 2 slices Black Forest Ham*
- ⅔ cup mayonnaise*
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon hot & sweet mustard
- ½ teaspoon Xylitol, stevia or sugar
- fresh ground pepper
- Peel potatoes and cut into ¾ inch cubes. The potatoes should all be about the same size so they cook evenly. Put potatoes into a large pot and add enough water to cover the potatoes. Heat over high heat. When the water boils lower the heat to medium and cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork or skewer. About 20 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes and add them back to the pot to cook of remaining moisture - about 30 seconds over medium heat. Stir gently to prevent browning and get all the moisture from the potatoes. Remove from heat and mash the potatoes with a potato masher, leaving some small chunks for texture. Sprinkle with salt and allow to cool.
- While the potatoes are cooking, prepare a hard boiled egg. Peel and dice the egg with a paring knife or egg slicer. Set aside.
- Prepare the vegetables: cutting a large carrot into quarters and thinly slice. Put the carrots in a microwave-safe container, add a tablespoon of water and cook for 1 minute so they are partially cooked, but still crunchy. Drain and set aside. If using frozen corn, place them in the same microwave-safe container, add a tablespoon of water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside. Cut the English cucumber into quarters lengthwise and slice thinly.
- Dice the ham slices. Add the ham and vegetables to the mashed potatoes with about six grinds of black pepper and mix well.
- Using a small whisk or fork, blend the rice vinegar, hot & sweet mustard, and sugar into the mayonnaise. Add to the potatoes and vegetables and mix until fully incorporated. Then gently mix in the diced egg. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie) is sweeter and has a thinner consistency than regular mayonnaise. It can be found in most Asian markets, but by adding rice vinegar, mustard and sugar you can create your own.
Disclosure: This recipe is part of my Potatoes Around the World series developed for the Idaho Potato Commission. I’m proud to be the featured blogger for April on the Idaho Potato Commission’s website – check out my recipes and all the other great ideas for working some magic with the ever versatile, satisfying and nutritious spud!