Sweet Potato Salad
Potato salad is one of those Western dishes that has become fully incorporated into the Japanese menu and developed a unique identity. When it was first introduced at the turn of the 20th century, it was more of a “dressed” salad, rather than the mayonnaise-type mixture we know it as today. Over the years, potato salad developed into its modern form: often colorful, filled with cucumbers, carrots, eggs, scallions, corn or ham. The key, some say, is in the mayonnaise—Japanese style mayonnaise tends to be sweeter, creamier and richer. Potato salad also keeps relatively well unrefrigerated for a few hours, which makes it a popular bento box addition. Ours is a nod to this classic dish, mixing it up a bit with sweet potatoes and radish sprouts for a new flavor combination. (Serves 2-3)
1 medium-size sweet potato
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon mirin
A dash of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
½ 4 oz. container radish sprouts (alfalfa sprouts would also work)
Saucepan, medium bowl
1. Boil the sweet potato (do not peel the skin) in water to cover in the saucepan until thoroughly cooked.
2. Cut the sweet potato in half lengthwise, and scoop the pulp into a bowl.
3. Using a potato masher, thoroughly mash the potato pulp, then add the mayonnaise, soy sauce, mirin, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold in sprouts. Mix well. Serve immediately or chilled.
Sesame Potato Green Beans
As a genre, aemono is a cooked salad and one of the basic categories of Japanese cuisine. Cooked vegetables (such as spinach) are dressed with a thick dressing (often sesame paste), and are gently flavored with soy sauce and sugar. Other variations include tofu and miso for the dressing. Green beans pair particularly well with sesame, and are a wonderful kid-friendly summertime vegetable. Interestingly, green beans were first introduced to Japan via a Chinese Zen monk known as Ingen. Ingen came to Kyoto and founded a Zen temple, and with him, the story goes, he introduced several new foods including kidney beans and watermelons. Green beans, used widely today, are called ingenmame (ingen beans) in his honor. (Serves 2)
2 small wax potatoes, thickly julienned
1 handful fresh green beans, ends cut off and cut in half
1 to 2 tablespoons sesame oil
½ teaspoon sesame seeds (or more, to taste)
A dash of salt
Small saucepan, medium bowl
1. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the potatoes, and boil until cooked yet firm. Gently drain, and place in a bowl.
2. Using the same saucepan, bring a small amount of water to a boil. Quickly simmer the green beans until tender-crisp. Drain and run under cold water immediately so that they retain their color. Add to the bowl.
3. Pour sesame oil atop the potatoes and green beans. Add sesame seeds and salt. Mix well, and season more if desired. Serve immediately, or refrigerate and serve chilled.