Potatoes originated in the Americas but quickly became a beloved global staple across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. While rice still reigns supreme in East Asia, China has incorporated potatoes into its cuisine with a Chinese-style potato salad that defies Western conventions.
Potato salad in the Americas and Europe generally consists of boiled waxy potatoes tossed in a mayonnaise or oil and vinegar-based dressing with varying crunchy and creamy additives. Chinese-style potato salad consists of potatoes that are shredded, crunchy, and coated in a very complex blend of numerous flavored oils, chilies, soy sauce, and umami-rich MSG.
Chinese potato salad's light, crunchy texture and spicy, sweet, and umami flavor profile bears no resemblance to the hearty, tangy, earthy, and creamy potato salads we enjoy at backyard barbecues in the U.S. Its preparation and cooking methods are an equally far cry from the familiar, forcing you to reimagine what you know about potato salad and broaden your perspective on a potato's culinary possibilities.
Read more: 25 Ways Potatoes Are Eaten Around The World
How To Make Chinese-Style Potato Salad
Chinese-style potato salad is a spicy Sichuan dish served as an appetizer in restaurants around the Republic. Similar to American and European potato salads, Chinese-style potato salads use waxy types of potatoes that are firm and less starchy than sweet potatoes or russets.
Instead of slicing the potatoes into chunks and boiling them, this recipe uses potatoes more like vegetables and less like starches. The objective is to remove all starch and maintain a crunchy texture as if this were a raw shredded carrot or zucchini salad. Once you rid the potatoes of their skin, you shred them into thin slivers and cook them in boiling water for just a couple of minutes before blanching them in cold water and drying them with a cloth.
You can throw in raw slivered veggies like carrots or thin enoki mushrooms for uniform shapes with varied textures. You can add the sauce's ingredients directly to the veggies, pouring scallion oil, sesame oil, chili oil or whole Sichuan peppercorns, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and minced garlic, then stirring to coat. Some recipes heat the sauce in a skillet for more fragrance before pouring it over the shredded potato. Others forgo boiling the potatoes and instead opt to stir-fry the potatoes in the sauce for a few minutes. The desired result is a crunchy, spicy, savory, and slightly sweet salad that is highly flavorful and not heavy.
Differences Between American And Chinese-Style Potato Salad
The differences between Chinese and American potato salad styles are so vast that they're basically mutually exclusive. The only overlap between the two dishes beyond the name is the focus on potatoes, but the Chinese preparation of the potatoes would be unrecognizable to the typical American palate.
Americans expect bite-sized chunks of tender potatoes coated in a creamy, slightly sour mayo-based sauce with the only crunch coming from secondary ingredients like chopped onions, pickles, or celery. In contrast, Chinese-style potato salad leaves the potatoes with a crunchy, seemingly raw texture. While some recipes throw in chewy ingredients like enoki mushrooms, many recipes are exclusively crunchy, consisting of only potatoes or potatoes and other slivered raw veggies like carrot and bell pepper.
Equally distinct are the flavor profiles of American and Chinese potato salads. The earthiness of the potatoes in American potato salad gets a tart and creamy complement from hard-boiled eggs, mayo, mustard, pickles, and lemon juice. Chinese potato salad's flavor profile is spicy, aromatic, and umami, thanks to scallion and chili oils, soy sauce, and MSG.
Lastly, while American potato salad is a heavy, rich side dish, Chinese-style potato salad is a light appetizer. This last difference reveals a fundamental difference in the way Americans and Chinese cuisines view potatoes. While Americans view potatoes as hearty starches to pair with meat, the Chinese utilize potatoes like cruciferous veggies in a fresh salad.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.