What makes this salad Japanese? According to the author of “Japaneasy,” it is the use of the word as an adjective that is synonymous with “superlative.” And that it has three key features: salty-umami components (like the ham used here); thinly sliced, crunchy vegetables; and potatoes that are gently roughed up to lend a light and creamy texture.
Quail eggs are available at many Whole Foods Markets and at Asian markets. Powdered dashi is available at Asian markets and through online purveyors, or you can make your own; see the NOTE, below. Kewpie brand mayonnaise is available at Asian markets and at some World Markets.
The cooked potatoes can be refrigerated a day or two in advance; bring to room temperature before mixing up the salad.
(You can substitute three chicken eggs, quartered, for the quail eggs. The salad might not be as cute, but it will taste just as good.)
1⁄4seedless (English) cucumber
1⁄2medium carrot, scrubbed well
18ouncesfingerling potatoes and/or small Dutch Gold potatoes
12quail eggs (see headnote)
2⁄3cupmayonnaise, preferably Kewpie brand (see headnote)
1⁄4teaspoondashi powder (see headnote and NOTE)
Generous pinch freshly ground black pepper
8cornichons, cut into small dice
2to 2 1/2 ounces sliced ham, cut into small dice
10to 15 chives, finely chopped
Cut the cucumber and carrot in half lengthwise, then into very long, thin slices (use a mandoline if you have one). Lay them on paper towels; season them lightly with salt and let them sit for about 20 minutes, then rinse well and pat dry.
Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes well, then cut them into smallish bite-size pieces, placing them in a large saucepan as you work. Cover with cool water and add a large pinch of salt. Bring to barely a boil over medium heat; cook until just tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to a plate to dry.
Increase the heat to high; once the water comes to a rolling boil, carefully add the quail eggs. Cook for 3 minutes, then drain and immediately transfer to a bowl of cool water and ice cubes. When the eggs are completely cool, peel and cut each one in half.
Whisk together the mayonnaise, dashi powder, powdered mustard, pepper and a pinch of salt in a mixing or serving bowl, until smooth. Add the potatoes and stir vigorously to coat; the goal here is to break up the potatoes a bit more and half-mash some of them to give the salad a creamy texture.
Add the cucumber, carrot, cornichons, ham and quail egg halves. Top with the chives and serve.
NOTE: To make your own dashi powder, pulverize kombu (dried kelp) in a designated spice grinder.
Adapted from “Japaneasy: Classic & Modern Japanese Recipes to Cook at Home,” by Tim Anderson (Hardie Grant, 2018).
Tested by Miriam Albert and Maura Judkis; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Calories: 220; Total Fat: 15 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 145 mg; Sodium: 360 mg; Carbohydrates: 13 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 1 g; Protein: 5 g.