Believe it or not, potato salad definitely is a very popular Izakaya food. I am sure that versions of potato salad are all over the (world) map. (Some may think Germany is where it started). Japanese made it’s contribution to potato salad variations by adding Tarako 鱈子 or cod roe to it, which I posted before. My wife grew up with American style potato salad and I did with Japanese style potato salad as my mother made it. We now make potato salad which is a hybrid between the two. Deviations from the America version are the use of rice vinegar and the addition of sliced and blanched onions rather than raw onions. I occasionally add Japanese curry powder to make a curry-favored version potato salad. I made the hybrid style salad for Memorial day barbecue but I also served it in a small bowl like Otoshi お通し in an Izakaya.
This time I used white potatoes (5 large). Yukon gold and Russet potatoes also work. I cooked the potatoes whole in salted water (about 30 minutes or until you could insert a bamboo skewer to the center easily). I removed the skin while the potatoes were hot and cut them into bite sized pieces (We like potatoes well cooked). This way, the potatoes do not become watery and appear to keep their flavor better. The most important thing is to season the potatoes while they are hot. I add 2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of black pepper and several tablespoons of Japanese rice vinegar and gently toss the potatoes. I taste and add more seasoning to my liking. You want to put on as much vinegar as you like but it has to be absorbed completely. If you are making a curry flavored salad, you add curry powders here (To be authentic, use the Japanese kind of powder such as the SB brand). I cut up carrots (5 long skinny ones which I had) and blanched them until they were soft but still crunchy. I halved and sliced onion into thin strips (one large or two small) and blanched the strips for 1-2 minutes. (I used the same pot in which the carrot was cooking. Put the onions in just 1 or 2 minutes before the carrot is done). The amount of onion is up to you but, by blanching the onion, the pungent onion flavor becomes much less strong and sweeter. The longer you cook, the less pungent the onion will become. So you could adjust the amount of the onion and the length of blanching to your liking. Drain them in a colander. I add a rice vinegar and salt to the carrots and onions in a colander and mix and drain at the same time. Mix all the ingredients together in a metal bowl (so that it will cool faster) and let it cool down to a room temperature. The potatoes should taste pretty good and well-seasoned at this point with vinegar, salt and pepper (it is like a southern Germany “Kartoffelsalat“. Most of Japanese recipes will add thinly sliced fresh cucumbers but I added cornichon pickles (cut up) instead. After the potatoes have cooled down to room temperature, I add Dijon mustard (1 tbs) and mayonnaise (3 tbs) and gently fold and mix. Because the mushed and well seasoned potato from the surface of the individual pieces gets mixed into the dressing it adds creaminess and you do not need too much mayo. I adjusted the seasoning (salt and pepper). Potatoes can take quite a bit of salt and vinegar but pre-seasoning them while they are hot is the key. We think our potato salad is much better than any of the store bought kind.