Monday, 9 September 2013

Ninja Potato Salad

Insalata di Satoimo & Cetriolo Giapponese con i Gamberi
Satoimo & Japanese Cucumber Salad & Shrimp

Why Ninja? Well, because this potato salad has a Japanese ingredient masquerading in it as a common or garden potato- which will turn up on your plate and take both you and your guests by surprise! Satoimo, or baby Taro root, is indeed also known as Japanese potato. But it isn't a potato- it is a whole different beast!

But at the same time, it IS still a potato when it comes to cooking and eating it! You wouldn't suspect that the smooth, creamy vegetable on your plate was in fact a gnarly, hairy little root with a beak! Like baby coconuts, they were sitting in a basket at the market hall on Saturday- and like an inquisitive child I had to indeed ask what they were!
And bless him, the Turkish vendor was able to give me a name for them and tell me they "are eaten by the Japanese as potatoes"- but of course couldn't tell me the first thing about how to cook them or what they tasted like! And so the adventure began!

As I had no idea what to expect, I of course took a ride down the information super hi-way and looked these strange little roots up. What I could gather was that the Satoimo has a softer consistency than a regular potato and that it becomes rather sticky if it overcooks. Most of the dishes I saw were also potato salads, but they were all made using mayonnaise, which is not one of my favorite things in the world. It seems that there is a classic Japanese dish which is a salad made with Satoimo, cucumber and shrimp- so I decided to make a version of my own, just to discover the taste :-)

The first thing you need to do of course is to peel them- and already in doing so, you will soon notice how slippery they are! But fear not, they will not end up tasting slimy in the same way that over-cooked okra tends to. I rinsed them clean, cut them into relatively thin slices and popped them into a saucepan with salted water to boil for 10-15 minutes.

In the meantime, I took the remaining half of the yellow-green Japanese cucumber from Saturday, removed the seeds from the middle, cut it into sections of around 2"-3" and then chopped them into "julienne". I did the same with 2 small, sweet chilli peppers and I cut 1 Spring onion into fine diagonal slices. Next, came a good handful of fresh dill, which I chopped up very finely and a few more sprigs that I set to one side for decoration later. Dill and cucumber have really got something special going on after ;-)

The Satoimo slices were were ready much more quickly than regular potatoes would be but also a lot softer and a rather unattractive and dull grey color. If this worries you at all- do what I did and have a little taste and you will soon be fine with it- they taste pretty wonderful! Kind-of earthy in a mild way, like sun-chokes for example and lovely and mild! All they needed doing now was transforming into something a little prettier!

I let them cool for around 10 minutes and then combined all of the other ingredients together with it into a bowl, to which I added a couple of tablespoons of plain yogurt, the juice of 1 lime and a good drizzle of sesame oil. I added a little salt and pepper, a pinch of Sansho pepper (be careful!) and stirred everything through nicely. I didn't use soy to season it as I didn't want to ruin the nice, white color it had become :-)

Mine was made to accompany some shrimp, which were simply stir-fried in a little peanut oil, with some finely chopped ginger and a little chili and soy to add a subtle flavor. I served them together with more fresh dill, a drizzle of hoisin sauce and a sprinkle of ground dried chili flakes... not Japanese, but not bad at all I would say! And you will too if you try this- and I certainly hope that you do! it is always good to discover new things... especially if you can eat them! So enjoy!


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