The Secret of Japanese Mayonnaise
I spent part of my childhood in Japan, which left me with an enduring love for manga and mayonnaise. Specifically, the absolutely delicious Japanese brand of mayonnaise known as Kewpie. Now I know plenty of people make their own homemade mayo, which I’m sure is also extremely tasty, but for those of us can’t eat raw eggs or are just too lazy to whip up a batch, it’s a great option. Kewpie mayo is also beloved by chefs like Momofuku’s David Chang, who called it “the best mayonnaise in the world”(Food & Wine).
What is Kewpie mayonnaise?
If you’ve ever been in an Asian market, you may have noticed some strange, squishy looking bottles with a drawing of a naked baby on them. To make things more bizarre, the bottle is encased in a plastic bag. I don’t know why this is done, since the bottle itself seems to be a perfectly adequate container, but that’s just the way it is. The mayonnaise itself is also different from the typical commercial jarred product. To begin with, it’s made from egg yolks rather than a mix with whole eggs. This gives it a smooth eggy flavour which is more akin to homemade mayo, and a thinner consistency. Kewpie is also sharper and tangier due to its proprietary blend of apple and other vinegars, and contains no sugar.
Secret #1 There are actually 2 nozzles on the bottle. The first is a fine nozzle, which allows you to pipe fancy swirls of mayonnaise on top of your hardboiled eggs, and if you unscrew the red top, you’ll find a larger, star shaped nozzle for less dainty work.
Secret #2 Kewpie contains MSG, a flavour enhancer. I’m not against MSG in small quantities–in fact, Cook’s Illustrated Magazine found that chicken stock made with a little MSG was superior than stock made without. The key is restraint, not the handfuls of white crystals that are slung into Chinese restaurant food.
Kewpie can be used wherever normal mayonnaise is deployed, but it really shines in combination with Sriracha sauce. Don’t try it with regular mayo–it makes a weird, blobby concoction. You really need Kewpie for this.
Secret #3 The special “dynamite sauce” used in sushi restaurants is simply Kewpie mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha.
Snack 1. Add a few drops of Sriracha to Kewpie mayo to taste, and use it as a dip for fried chicken (karaage). It’s rather decadent to dip fried chicken in a mayonnaise sauce, but it’s really good!
Snack 2. Make a bite-size scallop hand roll. For this, you need sashimi grade scallops. I prefer to buy them from a Japanese grocery store, where they should be marked “sashimi” and are previously flash-frozen to kill parasites. If you’re preparing sashimi at home, make sure your cutting board is clean (I often sterilize it by pouring a pan of boiling water over it in the sink) and your knife is very sharp.
- Rinse the scallops in cold water and pat dry. They should have a sweet, fresh scent that makes you want to devour them. If they don’t smell good, don’t eat them.
- Cut first across the grain (slice horizontally, like splitting a cake for filling) and then into quarters.
- Mix lightly with finely chopped green onions, a squirt of Kewpie and a few drops of Sriracha to taste.
- Eat with Korean seasoned seaweed with a little rice, sliced green cucumber, and salmon caviar for a truly luxurious touch. I prefer Korean seaweed to Japanese in this instance because it’s thinner, crispier, and has a bit of salt and oil in it. Try it and compare!
Good books to pair with this – Haruki Murakami’s “A Wild Sheep Chase”, set partly in Hokkaido where many sashimi-grade scallops come from, and some ice cold Sapporo beer.
What do you like to eat with mayonnaise?