To tell the truth, I was shocked when I found out potato salad was originally a western thing. For Japanese people, this is definitely one of those old recipes that make you nostalgic for mom’s food. In other words, potato salad is so deeply adopted in Japanese cooking we don’t even file it under the category of “Western-style cooking” – we just think of it as our own.
My mom used to make potato salad as a side dish, particularly when the main dish was something with pork, and doubly so if it was stir-fried with soy sauce. So, in Japan, potato salad is more side dish than a main dish, and you don’t eat a large quantity like Germans do.
Even so, like any potato salad, it’s perfect for a party or a barbecue!
I love potato chips, but sometimes I find them too salty and oily, so they fail to satisfy. Jagaimo-mochi is a good alternative at times like that, a snack for when you’re a bit hungry and want something salty.
At heart, jagaimo mochi is an oyatsu – a mid-afternoon snack – the kind of thing moms make to welcome their hungry kids home from school, and so it’s tied to all kinds of childhood memories for me. But the recipe also works well as a light meal, or as a tasty grown-up nibble with beers.
At the end of the day, jagaimo mochi are potato pancakes, but not as you know them!
It’s probably not the first thing you think of, but if you ask me Japan’s true national dish is curry. Japanese people are crazy for the stuff: it’s served constantly, both at home and in restaurants. I think it has a good claim to be Japan’s best-loved dish.
Of course, curry isn’t from Japan. As everybody knows, curry is originally Indian, but the dish came to Japan in the late 19th century through the colonial route, via Britain. This may explain why compared to Indian curry, Japanese curry is usually quite mild, sweet even, and certainly never very spicy.
I’ve met some Canadians who are really into Japanese culture, and they all complained that whenever Japanese people invited them for dinner, they made curry! It’s easy to understand why they run into it so often at parties: this dish scales up very well, so it’s ideal for big gatherings, parties, and the like. And since everyone in Japan loves the stuff, it’s very often served to guests. (In honor of this, the recipe below is for 20 people!)
I’ll admit it: Westerners sometimes fail to see the point of Japanese curry. I can see why. If you’re used to Indian food, our way of making it could strike you as a little unexciting. I’ve come to the conclusion this is one of those dishes that divides cultures more than it brings them together: almost everyone in Japan loves Japanese style curry but reactions abroad are more mixed.