What is Japanese Mayonnaise?
Japanese mayonnaise differs from the typical American mayonnaise in a few key ways. First, only egg yolks and not the entire egg are used in Japanese mayonnaise, this gives Japanese mayo it's deeper color. Second, a combination of rice and apple vinegar is used in Japanese mayo versus distilled vinegar in American mayo. Finally, Japanese mayo has additional MSG (monosodium glutamate) that further enhances the umami flavor. All this combined creates a unique flavor profile that pairs well with most savory meals. Furthermore, the Japanese mayo has a thicker consistency that makes it easy to squeeze out of the bottle and ideal for garnishing dishes. Many tasters describe it as having a tangier, richer flavor than American mayo.
Japanese mayonnaise was first invented in 1925 by Toichiro Nakashima when he returned home to Japan from America. He enjoyed the mayonnaise he had in the states and he saw an opportunity to create his own mayo recipe that was more nutritious and well suited for spreading on vegetables. By this logic he added twice as many egg yolks as was called for in a typical American mayonnaise recipe. The company that Mr. Nakashima founded is now known as Kewpie, Japan's largest mayonnaise manufacturer, and in many ways the story of Kewpie is the story of Japanese mayo. The company grew quickly from a half ton of production in it's first year to seven tons by the second year. Today Kewpie is a global corporation that manufacturers a number of different mayonnaise based products with a market captalization of over two billion USD.
Seventy-percent of Japanese mayo is vegetable oil and thirty-percent is eggs and vinegar. When mixed together at high speeds on commercial equipment the usually unmixable oil and vinegar form an emulsion, with lectin in the egg yolk acting as the emulsifier. This creates millions of tiny oil droplets that are held in suspension in the vinegar leading to the ideal creamy texture. A proper emulsion is difficult to achieve with typical home kitchen appliances.
Perhaps as important as the mayonnaise is the bottle that it comes in. Kewpie has a specially designed bottle that comes with two tips, a skinnier circle nozzle is standard, and when the cap is removed as seen in the first photo above there is a wider star shaped nozzle. The bottle is multilayered and allows for an unrefrigerated shelf life of twelve months before opening. Once opened it will last in the fridge for another six months.
Japanese mayo has to be tasted to be truly understood. Bottles can be easily purchased on Amazon or at your local asian supermarket. Try one of our recipes to mix it up and find the right mayonnaise option for your next meal.