Jun 14, 2011

Japanese Potato Salad, Potato Totoros, and Vegan Kewpie Mayo

A long time ago, when my host daughter Emiko made Japanese potato salad for us, I was dubious. Unlike the American version, it was extremely simple: potatoes, cooked carrots, peas, mayo, and salt. Then I tasted it, and thought it was genius.

Kewpie mayo is the Japanese standard that everyone uses over there, and the ONLY mayo considered acceptable in potato salad. It's what a lot of our sushi restaurants use on their fancy sushi rolls as well. It's not as tangy and a little sweeter than American mayo, and creamier in texture. It also has a happy yellow tint to it. They use rice vinegar instead of distilled vinegar, which people say is the key to it's popular flavor. It also contains MSG, and I'm thinking that has to do with its addictiveness more than anything.
Kewpie Japanese Mayonnaise, sold in most Asian markets

Homemade Kewpie Mayonnaise, veganized
To "veganize" this, I had quite the challenge. But after a few taste tests from myself and some Kewpie experts, I think I'm on to something. I made use of the natural sweetness of cashews and carrots, so there's no added sugar or sweeteners, and much less added oil. You can reduce the oil by half if you like, but it won't be as shiny and melt-in-your-mouth. There's also no MSG.

This makes much more than the recipe requires, so feel free to jar leftovers and use it for other purposes.

Vegan Kewpie Mayonnaise
(makes about 26 oz.)

1 C. cashews (unroasted, unsalted)
1 C. water + 1/4 C. water to add later
1 package (12 oz.) Mori Nu Extra Firm Silken Tofu
1/4 C. thinly sliced carrots
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil

Place cashews and 1 cup water into a sauce pan and heat until boiling. Turn off heat and set aside to let cool for about 15 minutes. In a food processor, pour in the cashew-carrot-water mixture and blend until finely chopped. Note: if you want a thicker mayo, drain off about a little of the liquid before blending (you can always add in more if needed). Add all other ingredients, except the 1/4 C. water, and puree until smooth. If it's too thick, add the water a little at a time until you get the right consistency. Blend for a good 5 minutes or more, scraping down the sides every so often- you want it silky smooth without any grittiness from the nuts. Chill in the fridge before using.

Since this is a healthier potato salad challenge, I though I'd include some interesting nutritional comparisons with both regular mayo and the vegan standard:
What's great about making your own, is that you can make adjustments.
If you're worried about sodium, for instance, you can substitute a low
sodium salt, or reduce the overall amount
.  Also, vegan mayo is naturally 
cholesterol-free, whereas the Kraft mayo has 5mg of cholesterol per serving.

Kahaku Namasu (literally: Red & White Pickled Salad)
Although the simplicity of this potato salad is genius as mentioned, I thought I'd add another dimension to it, because I just couldn't help myself! To add a little zing and crunch, I decided to make some Kahaku Namasu (carrot & daikon pickled salad). It's the same stuff they use in those incredible Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwiches, so you know what to do with any leftovers!

Make very thin matchstick slices

Kahaku Namasu

After cutting up about 1 cup each of both daikon and carrots (as shown above), place them into a bowl and sprinkle generously with salt (about 1 tsp). Massage the salt into the veggies, then set aside to allow them to release some of their moisture. Mix together the following into a tuperware container:

1 C. rice vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
1 C. raw sugar
1/4 C. water

Heat for about 1 minute in the microwave to dissolve the sugar, then chill and set in the fridge to cool.

After about 30 minutes, you'll see that the carrots and daikon have released a lot of their water. Wrap them in a towel and squeeze out any excess. Put them into the dressing, and let them marinate for 10-15 minutes. Do not soak too long, because they will get soft and not crunchy. Drain off the dressing, then store them in the fridge until ready to use.

Now you're ready to boil the potatoes. I used about 2 pounds of red boiler potatoes, and put them into a large pot of cold salted water with an inch of cover. Boil them until a fork goes in easily. Drain, and mash while still warm. I decided to leave the skins in, but you can peel them first. Let cool to room temp.

To this I added:

1/2 C. frozen petite peas (thawed)
1/2 C. finely chopped green onions
1 C. of the Kahaku Namasu
Vegan Kewpie Mayo (to desired creaminess)

Mix everything together, and it's ready!

"Ta Daaaa!"

Potato "Totoros"
"Oishii (Delicious)!"

If you haven't seen Totoro before, here's the trailer for it. I fell in love with the Japanese version with subtitiles, and if you can find it, that is the one to watch!

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!


  1. I ADORE kewpie mayo and your Totoro potatoes are just too adorable...!!! Your veg cutting/carving skills are amazing! Thumbs up :D)!

  2. Oh, wow, I'm in love with your Totoros. You rock, my fellow vegan and anime enthusiast. :)

  3. OMG, vegan kewpie mayo! I always knew regular mayo wasn't quite right in Japanese recipes but I couldn't put my finger on what was missing. It's been a long time since I last had anything with kewpie mayo. Thanks so much for the recipe! Love the potato totoros, that really puts the presentation over the top! :-)

  4. Everything looks mighty delicious and so cute!

    from http://nuestracena-vegancuisine.blogspot.com


  5. Leave it to you to make potato salad interesting again! I have never heard of kewpie mayo. Brava!

  6. My cousin's wife is from Japan and so I can't wait to make this recipe for when they come over during the summer. I'll let you know what she thinks.

  7. I am going to have to try this! I love a good potato salad in the summer...one filled with lots of veg, even better!

  8. holycrap, that is soooooo cute!!!!!! You're killing me!!! :)

  9. This put a smile to my face...great job and so creative!


  10. Thanks for all the nice words! Totoro is blushing!

  11. Your veg carving skills are just too good.
    Liked it.

  12. Eeek, potato Totoro, no way! Best vegetable carving ever, easily.

  13. I haven't had Kewpie mayo but MSG sure does taste good. I love your carved potatoes! Great work.

  14. your potato salad sounds delicious and your pictures are so fun! My kids like them alot!


  15. Those carvings are awesome! I love Kewpie mayo <3

  16. Those potato Totoros (potoros?) are way too adorable! I'll have to make them for my little sister some time. :->

  17. Magnificent. This is most definitely art...food art. Totally digging the Totoro potatoes.

    ♥ It's Carmen

  18. Kewpie have their own vegan mayo now! :D