Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Potato Salad with Chinese Flavors

Before the entire village went global, one used to be able to give complete and definitive credit (or blame) for a dish with an ethnic identity crisis, such as a potato salad with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and bacon, to the American Melting Pot. Now, who knows?  Such a thing could have come from anywhere, but it’s probably safe to say that a dish of Peruvian tubers dressed in a classically French mayonnaise flavored with traditionally Asian ingredients doesn’t have an ancient history. I’m so glad to live in a time when that really doesn’t matter. This potato salad is delicious!

I lifted this recipe from a cookbook by Martin Yan, probably from the early 1990s (or late ‘80s). I’m not sure which book, because I never owned it myself, but just copied a few delicious recipes. This is, I think, the only one of those recipes I’ve made over and over again. I’ve changed a few things, made do when I couldn’t get an ingredient, and tried to make it every summer (like as an accompaniment to foods grilled with this Chinese Style Barbecue Sauce and Marinade).

The original recipe called for bok choy stems, which used to be hard to find, so I replaced them with celery. I’ve made this with green bell peppers when red ones were too expensive, and that works okay, too, although I like the taste of the sweeter red a little more. I also added some Chinese hot mustard to the dressing, which really kicks it up. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any this time around. Not wanting to delay this post, I replaced it with Dijon, which was good, but not the same. I’ve included the hot mustard in the recipe below, and I hope to have a chance to re-test this delicious recipe soon so I can adjust the recipe if what I have here isn’t quite right. I stand by it as an ingredient, however, and you could probably use as much or as little as you like.

The sesame-soy-rice vinegar blend in the dressing is delicious with potatoes and the flavors of the scallions and cilantro serve to enhance that. I’d also like to try this with more cilantro, perhaps some fresh ginger in the dressing, or a handful of chopped garlic chives. Just like any potato salad, classic, creative, or downright ethnically challenged, the bacon just makes it extra-delicious. Like many, many yummy dishes, the bacon doesn’t absolutely have to be there, so you could leave it out and have a vegetarian salad. If you like bacon, however, it’s just going to make you even happier.

While this potato salad has a heavy Asian influence, it’s potato salad first and is a fine accompaniment to many dishes and grilled goodies that you might serve with any other potato salad. I served it with BLT sandwiches. Yes, even more bacon.

Potato Salad with Chinese Flavors
Adapted from Martin Yan

You could leave out the bacon for a vegetarian salad.

I found a note with my old recipe that this dressing is also good on cabbage salads.

1 ½ pound potatoes, preferably thin-skinned boiling potatoes
2 strips thick-cut bacon, or 3 strips thin-cut bacon
½ cup chopped celery
about ½ of a large red bell pepper, chopped, plus a few pepper strips for garnish if desired
2 large scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon Chinese hot mustard

1. Scrub the potatoes and place them in a large pot. Cover with cold water by a few inches and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a knife. (I like to keep the pot covered when boiling potatoes, but you would not have to.) Drain and cool completely.

2. Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain well and set aside.

3. Peel the potatoes and cut them into about 1-inch cubes. Place them in a large bowl. Add the celery, bell pepper, scallions and cilantro and toss together to combine.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and hot mustard.  Pour over the potato mixture and gently stir to coat. Crumble the cooked bacon and stir in. Garnish with pepper strips if desired. Chill until ready to serve.

Makes about 6 servings. Keep leftovers refrigerated for a few days.

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