knits by sachi

Japanese Potato Salad

It seems that I have been cooking many dishes without knowing they are Japanese.
For example, this potato salad.

When I prepared it for my English friends one day for lunch, they said they never had anything like it before. It is very Japanese, they all said.

How can it be? I thought. It is cooked potatoes with mayonnaise.
We do add vegetables and proteins and this may be unique to our potato salad. There are many variations and each family has their own recipe. Mum always made with ham, boiled egg and sliced cucumber.

I had also used Japanese mayonnaise.

Japanese mayonnaise tastes a little different. Just like there are Hellmann’s and Heinz in the UK, we have Kewpie and Ajinomoto as major brands in Japan. They have been around since mid 1920’s.

Japanese mayonnaise uses soy-based vegetable oil and many of the same ingredients as US/UK ones, however, they don’t add water and uses apple or rice vinegar rather than distilled vinegar. It contains egg yolks rather than whole eggs.Using egg yolks and apple or rice vinegar and eliminating water gives Japanese mayonnaise a thicker texture than American mayonnaise and it is rich. My friends said it was more vinegary and resembled salad cream rather than mayonnaise.
I really missed it when I was an exchange student in America.

How to make Japanese potato salad

2 large potatoes
2 eggs, boiled

2-inch English cucumbers
1/2 tsp salt
2 slices ham
*2-3 tbspJapanese mayonnaise
1-2 tsp English mustard or whole grain mustard

Freshly ground black pepper or white pepper
1/4 tsp salt

1. Cook potatoes. You can boil, bake or microwave.
Conventional way is peel potato and boil in a pot. Cook until a skewer goes through. Drain water and put the pot back on the hob.
On the stove, evaporate water and moisture of the potatoes over medium-high heat about 45 seconds or so. When the potatoes are nice and fluffy, remove from heat.

Mash the potatoes roughly to leave some small chunks for texture. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool.

The cucumbers we get in Japan are much thinner and cruncher with less water so that we can simply slice them. I either de-seed or use outer flesh of English cucumber. Slice thinly and sprinkle 1/4 tsp of salt. Leave it for 15 minutes, then, rinse. Squeeze firmly to get rid of excess moisture.

Dice the sliced ham. I use good quality ham with no added water.

Mash up boiled eggs.

When potatoes are cooled, add ham, cucumber and eggs to potatoes.
Add salt, pepper, mayonnaise and mustard mix until incorporated.

If you do not have Japanese mayonnaise?

Although we like Japanese mayonnaise and it is possible to get them at a Chinese supermarket, they are rather pricey. I often use English salad cream or mayonnaise with a teaspoon of vinegar.

I prefer to go easy on mayo and season with salt, pepper and mustard.

There are lots of room for improvisation for this recipe. My auntie used to make it with sliced, quartered and boiled carrot and thinly sliced fresh onion. My friend once made it with tinned tuna and whole grain mustard. My elementary school used to serve it with sliced apple.

You can use wasabi instead of mustard or add a bit of Miso for saltiness. It is fun to experiment.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of potatoes in the UK. You can have a go at this salad if you get bored with your usual baked potatoes or chips.

My new knitting project this week?

I am already writing for winter issues.


More Easter knits

I found this bottle at our wine shop in town.

It had come from Ibaragi prefecture in Japan. It must be an ale brewed by a small local brewery that uses locally sourced ingredients and water. I felt like I found my old friend. It has such a cute label and I thought I must have it.

I am not a beer drinker. I find all beers too bitter for me. Only recently, I learned the difference between ale and lager.
I tasted a little. The ale had fruity, tangerine like aroma (or should I call it bouquet?) and was very tasty. Yes, it was bitter and my husband happily finished it all, but it was good.

The one I bought is called ‘White ale’ and the shop had another kind, ‘Red rice ale’. That sounds even more interesting. I want to try it next time.

The brewer has an online shop; Hitachino Nest Beer

Oh, I was going to share the pattern of these two little guys here today.

Little chicken and chick

Stst: stocking stitch
St: stitch
K: knit
P: purl
Kfb: k one through the front then through the back (same stitch)
K2tog: knit two together
P2tog: purl two together
Skpo: slip1, knit1, pass slipped stitch over

Special technique: i-cord
Using double-pointed needles cast on the required number of stitches. Do not turn. Slide stitches to the opposite end of the needle, then knit stitches again taking the yarn firmly across the back of work. Repeat to desired length. Cast off.

• 3g white DK
• Small amounts of brown, dark brown DK (8-ply)
• Small amounts of 4-ply (fingering) red and yellow
• Stuffing

A pair of 2.75mm-3.00mm (US 2) Double pointed knitting needles (DPN)*It is to make i-cords, but there is an

With white, cast on 9 sts.
Row 1 (WS): p
Row 2: (kfb) in each st to end. 18 sts
Row 3: p
Row 4: (k1, kfb) to end. 27 sts
Rows 5-11: Beg with a p row, work in Stst.
Row 12: (k1, k2tog) to end. 18 sts
Rows 13-17: Beg with a p row, work in Stst.
Row 18: (k2tog) to end. 9 sts
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off.

Wings: make two
With white, cast on 8 sts.
Rows 1-3: Beg with a p row, work in Stst.
Row 4: k2tog, (k1, k2tog) to end. 5 sts
Row 5: p
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off.

Feet: make two
With brown, cast on 5 sts.
Ro w1: cast off 4 sts p wise. 1 st
Row 2: cast on 4 sts, cast off these sts p wise. 1 st
Row 3: cast on 4 sts, cast off to end.

Legs: make two
With brown, cast on 2 sts and work 4 rows in i-cord. Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off.
Alternatively, if you do not have DPNs, cast on 4 sts, cast off these sts p wise.

Wattle: make two
With 4-ply red, cast on 3 sts
Row 1: p1, p2tog.2 sts
Row 2: k2tog and fasten off.

Comb: make three
Work as Wattle

With 4-ply yellow, cast on 4 sts.
Row 1: (p2tog) twice. 2 sts
Row 2: k2tog and fasten off.

To make up
With fasten-off yarn end, sew body and stuff. Seam wings and attach them to body. Connect three claws of feet at one end neatly and attach them to leg. Attach legs to body. Attach wattle, beak and comb pieces to head. With dark brown, French knot eyes.

• Small amount of soft yellow, brown DK
• Small amounts of 4-ply dark brown and yellow
• Stuffing

With soft yellow, cast on 7 sts.
Row 1 (WS): p
Row 2: (kfb) in each st to end. 14 sts
Row 3: p
Row 4: (k1, kfb) to end. 21 sts
Rows 5-7: Beg with a p row, work in Stst.
Row 8: (k1, k2tog) to end. 14 sts
Rows 9-11: Beg with a p row, work in Stst.
Row 12: (k2tog) to end. 7 sts
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off.

Wings: make two
With soft yellow, cast on 6 sts.
Rows 1-2: Beg with a p row, work in Stst.
Row 3: (p2tog) to end. 3 sts
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off.

As given for Chicken

To make up
Sew body seam and stuff. Seam wings and attach them to body. Attach beak. With 4-ply dark brown, French not eyes. For a leg, cut brown DK yarn to about 8cm and make a knot on one end. Make another knot on top of first knot to ensure knot will not be undone. Thread yarn and pierce front base of body, leaving knot and about 1cm yarn for leg. Hide yarn end in body. Repeat for other leg.

When you are knitting toys, it is a good idea to make it a habit of keeping fairy long end at cast-on and fasten-off ends for sewing. Also, seam with the right side out. Your finish will be neater.

Easter is almost here but this is a super quick project. You can make it in no time.

Happy Easter!

This was in Woman’s Weekly last week. I didn’t know it was out and even I missed it. I will try to find out how to get the pattern from editor.

Sir Elton John was on the cover.

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Ojiya Japanese risotto

My husband came back from Hong Kong business trip this weekend and brought back these.

Oh, not the cats. I knitted the cats.

He said there were lots of Seven Eleven convenience stores in Hong Kong and they all sell Japanese food. Interesting. We love everything Japanese.

Since my older son moved to London to attend his university, our food bill decreased considerably. It is a bit strange because he is not at all a big eater, but I have noticed that we are spending much less at supermarkets.

Also, whenever I cook rice for dinner, we get leftovers which becomes my younger sons lunch the following day. He much prefers meals with Japanese rice to sandwiches or sausage rolls. He normally fixes his own lunch every day.

Recently, he learned to cook ‘Ojiya’, Japanese risotto.

Some call it porridge with rice and technically, it may be correct because rice is not cooked from grain. However, rice looks and has similar texture to risotto and I think you can picture the dish better if I call it that way.

My son’s version is a super short cut. After all, he is a 18-year-old boy who comes home for lunch between lessons.

Properly, you will make soup base with Dashi, stock made with bonito flakes or kombu seaweed. You would cook vegetables and sometimes light meat as chicken or white fish.
The method is simple; you make miso soup and dump cooked rice into it.

Ojiya risotto, my son’s version
Cooking time: 3 mins?
Serves 1

1 instant miso soup (or left over miso soup if you have)
1 bowl of cooked rice
1 egg, beaten
Cooked meat, crab sticks, small amount of wakame seaweed, etc

1. In a small cooking pan, make miso soup according to the instructions or heat up left over miso soup.
2. Add cooked rice.

3. Cook until the rice absorbs some of the liquid and thickens. Add beaten egg.

4. Remove from heat when the egg is cooked through.
5. Sprinkle a bit of chili powder if desired.

If you could spend a bit more time, you can add all sorts of vegetables. My suggestions are sliced shiitake mushrooms, cubed or julienned carrots, cubed potatoes, mooli daikon, radish, parsnip, wakame seaweed,spinach,finely chopped spring onions.

Because the rice absorbs liquid and becomes thicker, you do not need too much rice. There is no oil, cream or cheese added but surprisingly satisfying. It is great when you are on diet.

Eating cauliflower to curve carbohydrate is popular now. I have never tried it, but may be you can substitute some of rice to cauliflower if you would like.

Mum used to cook me Ojiya when I wasn’t feeling well. It is easy to digest and gentle for your body, but at the same time, very nutritious. I am glad that my son has developed the taste for this dish.