Asian Fusion is So Last Decade – Christina’s Korean Restaurant Style Potato Salad {recipe}

christina's potato salad
Many people know about my distaste for “creative” sushi – an overly muscular behemoth of rice bristling with decidedly non-Japanese sushi ingredients like steak, cream cheese, tomatoes, and jalapenos with names like Crunchy Cowboy, Godzilla, and Firecracker Fantasy that sound more appropriate for an aquarian battle of American Gladiators than a sushi menu.

It is, quite frankly, just the faintest glimmer of what is a blinding hatred for all things Asian fusion. Maybe hatred is a strong word. If so, then I meant abhorrence. I have no hard evidence of from where it stems, but I have my theories. It probably has to do with the fact that I myself, am a product of Asian fusion – Korean girl by heritage, born into an American society, faced with competing, clashing cultures. Is it Korean? Or is it American? Is it Japanese sushi? Or is it just I-don’t-know-what-the-right-word-is-here?

I realize that in many respects, this cultural fusion is a thing of beauty, and it is how food and cultural cuisines evolve. It has taken me a long time to appreciate it. Even now, I can’t say that I fully appreciate it. I think it’s more like I have accepted it because my tastebuds have been beaten into the ground with sesame crusted everything with wasabi-scented smashed potatoes and soy ginger miso squirted out of ketchup bottle into a fancy paisley on the edge of my plate. Really, I don’t hate it. I can’t, because I have been known to conjure such cross-cultural cuisine-blurring things as pita-chos.

But let’s put aside for a moment my negative feelings about Asian fusion, and look instead, at adoption. I have noticed that in addition to this delicious cassoulet called fusion wherein we take ingredients from here, techniques from there, and presentation style from way over there so that every dish on the table has a Chinese five-spice blend of French and Japanese, there is something more along the lines of a grand global Epcot Center buffet called adoption. It’s taking some food and just straight up putting it on your cultural table, and yet it still maintains its cultural integrity. If we look at it from a Brangelina perspective (obviously, I’ve already made my point, but I can’t help but succumb to all the Hollywood media propaganda), the as-of-yet unborn baby inside Angelina is a fusion of whatever ethnicity Pitt is, and Jolie (which, for the ease of argument, I will say is French). However, little adopted Maddox is very seamlessly integrated into the Jolie-Pitt family, but he is, no doubt, ethnically Cambodian. Wow, that was too perfect, now wasn’t it?

There are many examples of all of this. For instance, Japanese folks serving curry over spaghetti noodles is fusion. Their offering spaghetti and meatballs on a menu alongside tonkatsu is adoption. Their putting a slice of American cheese on ramen is just gross. But I won’t get into that. And in the Korean world, I have seen no better adoption than serving all-American potato salad in a tiny dish as bahn-chan right along with galbee. I have no idea when or how it started. It probably has the same history as Spam, but again, I just can’t get started on that.

I wrote about how our family served potato salad at a barbecue baby shower we had in honor of my sister, brother-in-law, and then-still-marinating baby niece last fall. The potato salad was, um, how can I be at once descriptive and brief about this? Delicious. More than a few people have asked for the recipe (including you, Maure!), so I am posting it today. I am printing the recipe word for word as I received it from Christina, my sisters’ friend who made it, so any and all credit goes to her.

Christina also noted to me, “please note that it hasn’t been officially tested. I just guesstimated the amounts of the ingredients (since I never use a recipe) but since it’s potato salad it doesn’t have to be exact… I just don’t want you to get busted for recipes that don’t pan out… lolol!

Christina’s “Korean” Potato Salad

(serves 6-8)

Potato Salad Ingredients

8 medium potatoes – largely diced
6 hard-boiled eggs
5 carrots – medium diced
2 Fuji apples
1 onion – medium diced
1 package ham (luncheon meat)
1/3 c. chopped green onions
2 c. mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip!!!)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

First hard-boil the eggs – the trick to perfectly cooked eggs is to put the eggs in a pot, fill the pot with water until the eggs are covered – bring the pot to a boil, let it cook for 3 minutes then turn the heat off and put the lid on and keep it covered until the eggs have cooled down.

Bring a large pot of water (add some salt) to a boil. Dice the potatoes, carrots and onion – but don’t dice the potatoes too small or they will cook to fast and get mushy – also the salad looks better when they’re diced larger. Boil all the vegetables together (add the onions in half way through since they cook faster). Drain and let cool in a colander.

Chop the ham slices into small 1/2 inch cubes; you don’t need to use the whole package – chop as much as you want. Chop the green onions finely. Chop the eggs.

In a mixing bowl, mix the mayo, sugar, salt, pepper together and then add green onions (but save some green onions for garnishing on top), chopped ham and eggs to the mayo mixture. Taste the mixture and add sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

Dice the Fuji apples (with skin left on) into medium-sized cubes.

In a very large mixing bowl,add the potatoes,carrots,onions,apples and stir to mix them up. Then gradually add the mayo mixture in. You don’t need to use all of the mixture – just use the amount you want to. You can also add more mayo or seasoning if you need to.

Make sure the salad is not bland – it needs to have enough mayo and salt to taste good and flavorful. When you’re done mixing, put the salad into a cute serving bowl or platter and garnish the top of the salad with the remaining chopped green onion and a little pepper.

The end :)

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  • Kate

    Okay, okay, I hear you…and i agreen, no “sushi” should have beef in it…but there’s this chain in NYC called Sushi Samba (Japanese-Brazilian)where they have a roll called “El Topo” that is salmon, jalapeño, shiso leaf, fresh melted mozzarella & crispy onion. And it’s effing AWESOME.

    Also, what your feelings about fruit in sushi rolls? Like green apple/hamachi rolls? tuna/kiwi/blood orange?

  • ~ Wayne

    I don’t mind the fusion food, just the name. “Fusion” has come to denote “fussy” or “pretentious” in my mind for some reason.

    And to Kate’s point, how about mango/salmon rolls? mmmm i salivate now

  • Dolores

    My issue with the whole fusion concept is less the crossing of cultures — I LIKE the idea of taking two or more ingredients you wouldn’t normally put together and creating something that’s eons better than the sum of it’s parts. Interesting combinations of fruit, fish and other non-traditional ingredients over rice works just fine for me.

    But some marketing geek (or several) took ken the whole fusion thing way too far, using the word “fusion” to throw random ingredients together and put an outrageous pricetag on the result. And because it’s trendy, people eat it up (no pun intended).

  • Anonymous

    Apples! What a brilliant addition! Will have to try this recipe come summer time!

  • Maure

    thank you sarah, thank you christina – and thank you to the
    fully marinated baby what precipitated the bbq which led to
    said potato goodness.

    sarah, i will treat this adopted recipe as if it were my own, with love and respect and perhaps the addition of fresh red chili. and maybe, someday after it has become of age, it will learn from whence it came. or fed to the cat.

  • Henry

    I always thought the apples in the salad was weird but it actually works. My mom always used spam instead of ham. Spam makes everything better, like bacon and butter.

  • Catherine

    OK. Without even reading this post, yet, your picture alone scream’s my mom’s potato salad! i kid you not, mom made potato salad with carrots and hard boiled eggs, and i looooooved it! it’s been a while since i’ve had it though…*sigh*

    my mom also makes turkey stuffing with potatoes and peas. it’s a potato fetish me thinks. she even puts it in fried rice – is that normal? j/k.

    OKOK. going to read your blog now. ;)

  • sarah

    kate: i think i may have tried sushi samba before, if the restaurant in south beach is the same one. el topo, however, doesn’t sound as appetizing to me (sorry!) i am not a huge fan of salmon to begin with, and while i love jalapenos and shiso leaves, i can’t believe there is MOZZARELLA cheese in it! LOL! now THAT is just taking it too far. not sure how i feel about fruit in sushi, though i have tasted a few nigiri sushi that had a tiny garnish of yuzu zest. i’d have to try the fruit stuff before i could say anything.

    waye and culinarily curious: i think you both have actually hit the nail right square on the head – it’s that the fusion stuff is always way too overdone, it’s EVERYWHERE, and if it tastes okay, prices are worth it, but they don’t always taste as good as they cost.

    anonymous: apples in the potato salad or the sushi? apples in the potato salad=good :)

    maure: you are very welcome! you’ll have to let us all know how it turns out!

    henry: spam?!?! lol!

    cat: yes, i think i have only ever seen apples in “korean” or “japanese” potato salad. LOL!

  • FooDcrazEE

    i should try this….never had this fusion salad before. Thanx for the great post

  • Christina

    Wow Sarah – I can finally google myself and find one page on the internet that refers to me! Thank you :) BTW – Henry – originally I used SPAM in the potato salad as that is one of the OG ingredients in the traditional Korean potato salad BUT my friend Rose hates SPAM so I altered the recipe for her since I bring the salad to most of our friends’ potlucks. But the ham substitutes nicely for the SPAM. Also – I realized at a young age when my Dad would pack me SPAM sanwiches for lunch (sometimes even on raisin bread …) that not everyone (other than Koreans and Hawaiians) eat spam and think it’s normal. So when I made the salad for co-workers I made sure to use the ham version.

  • Christina

    Wow Sarah – I can finally google myself and find one page on the internet that refers to me! Thank you :) BTW – Henry – originally I used SPAM in the potato salad as that is one of the OG ingredients in the traditional Korean potato salad BUT my friend Rose hates SPAM so I altered the recipe for her since I bring the salad to most of our friends’ potlucks. But the ham substitutes nicely for the SPAM. Also – I realized at a young age when my Dad would pack me SPAM sanwiches for lunch (sometimes even on raisin bread …) that not everyone (other than Koreans and Hawaiians) eat spam and think it’s normal. So when I made the salad for co-workers I made sure to use the ham version.

  • sarah

    foodcrazee: it’s not fusion! the potato salad is not fusion! it’s just potato salad. okay, if you go and put Spam in it, though, i have no idea what it would be. lol!

    christina: you had spam/raisin bread sandwiches?!?! in elementary school? were you kicked a lot on the playground? sure would explain a lot ;)

  • JeffreyP

    sarah, they didnt kick christina just cuz of her sandwiches….

  • Christina

    Sarah – hmmm. did I ever tell you the story about how I was going to a party and we ran out of tape so my mom wrapped a present with rice instead of tape? When the present was being opened the girl and her mom were like “That is so cool? How did you get the paper to stick?” and I was like “ummm, it’s rice” and my face was beet red. Then all the girls there were like “That is sooo cool do Koreans use rice instead of tape and glue?” and I was like “no – we just ran out of tape…”

    Jeffrey – aren’t you the one who used to wear his sister’s blazers in highschool and look like Ducky from “Pretty in Pink”???

  • sarah

    jeffreyp: hey don’t be projecting your sad playground stories of yourself onto christina! ;)

    christina: omg! my mom did that to us, too! she said it makes it look prettier because then you wouldn’t see the tape on the outside! lol! it IS a korean thing!

  • Ed

    I think you’re wrong about fusion but right about bad fusion. Come down under and see how it should be done by people who have actually been to Asia. I mean, what’s really the difference between noodles and pasta? Have you ever tried a gazbacho with a dash of fish sauce and Asian herbs. All this reminds me of the post I should be writing write now but will probably do tomorrow now.

  • sarah

    ed: i think more than anything, it’s just that the bad fusion is everywhere, and that self-proclaimed “foodies” have declared their utter love for such refinement and exotic-ness. *ugh* please.

    now, as far as gazpacho, i love the idea of an asian influence, but i have a personal distaste for fish sauce. yeesh. LOL!

  • Ed

    i know what you mean and too many chefs over do the fish sauce. I hate having to sniff my armpit in restaurants to check I’ve washed when really the smell is coming from the plate…still not got round to posting about fusion.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, nice blog. I can’t stand FUSION food either. Especially the anglosaxonized Chinese restaurants in the same league as PF Chang (puffy chicken balls with sweet & sour sauce anyone?)

    OTOH, I love the Korean potato salad-uh. I don’t know where you are from, but it’s all over Toronto as well (up here in Canada)

    Andrew Choi

  • Anonymous

    BTW

    THANKS FOR THE RECIPE!!!

    Andrew

  • sarah

    you’re very welcome, andrew! hope you get to make it, and wehn you do, let us know how it turned out!

    just don’t say it was crap since that might hurt christina’s feelings, in whcih case she may never share another recipe with me again.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I always love the potato salad at Korean bbq, but never knew exactly how to make it.

    The first time I made this was for a bbq and it was so good. Got lots of compliments!

    Just a note: I halved the recipe and still got a lot of potato salad (big bowl). So if you make the full recipe, be prepared to eat a lot of it! Not that there’s anything wrong with that. =)

  • Anonymous

    wow! so glad that everyone is liking this! i’m going to have to let christina know. dammit, i should have said it was my recipe. LOL!

    xoxo,
    sarah

  • Caroline

    this is a delicious salad!I made it for a potluck and the whole thing wsa gone! So goood! Thanks for posting the recipe!

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