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Japanese Kewpie Mayo

Discover the story behind Kewpie mayonnaise and how its unique taste, quality ingredients, and innovative packaging have made it an iconic condiment for over 100 years.

Mayo! A word that divides people into love or hate groups. It seems there is no middle ground. Personally, I love it, but my father despises it. If there's mayo on a kebab or salad, he won't touch it. On the other hand, I can't get enough of it!

I remember my first time trying mayonnaise vividly. It was around 1999 in Albania. My parents and my aunt's family were living together at the time. Mayonnaise had just started appearing, brought in from imports or by Albanians returning from abroad. The jar we had was from Italy, labeled "Tusce" with a lady wearing a red apron.

I still recall taking a piece of bread and trying it for the first time. I was just six years old. The moment I took a bite, I spit it out—I absolutely hated it. Interestingly, I can't pinpoint when I started liking it again.

Throughout my life in Europe, the USA, and now Japan, I've tried many different mayonnaises, but nothing beats Kewpie. And no, this isn't an attempt to sell or promote anything Japanese—this is truly my genuine opinion. I love it on California rolls, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and in tamago sandwiches. And I'm not the only one! The famous Chef David Chang even calls it “the best mayonnaise in the world.”

But what makes Kewpie so special? Why do people find it tastier than other brands around the world?

Fun fact about Mayo History: According to culinary historians, mayonnaise was first made by a French chef in 1756 for a victory feast after capturing Port Mahon in Minorca, Spain. Originally, sauces were made with cream and eggs, but the chef used olive oil when he couldn't find cream.

Mayonnaise reached America in the 19th century, initially a luxury item served in fancy restaurants like New York’s Delmonico. Richard Hellman, the founder of Hellmann’s, popularized mayonnaise. In 1912, he opened a deli in New York City, where he and his wife used homemade mayonnaise in their salads, making it affordable and accessible for everyone.

How did Kewpie started?

The founder of Kewpie, Toichiro Nakajima, was born in 1883 and worked at a canned food company. At 29, he moved to the United States to research canned goods. During his time there, he developed a habit of eating vegetable salads and discovered mayonnaise in potato salad. Impressed by it, Nakajima wondered if Americans' good physiques (at that time 😃 ) were due to their nutritious foods and returned to Japan with a dream: "I want Japanese people to try this sauce too."

In 1918, he opened "Nakajima Shoten" to make mayonnaise in Japan. He added more egg yolk than the American version, aiming to capture the flavor that Japanese people enjoy. Since Western-style vinegar, crucial for the flavor, wasn't available in Japan, he imported a machine from Germany to make his own vinegar. Nakajima's passion for mayonnaise was unmatched.

Kewpie Name Origin

Nakajima poured his heart and soul into creating a domestically produced mayonnaise, which was commercialized in 1925. The name "Kewpie" was inspired by the popular Kewpie doll, which had a Western-style image. They named their product "Kewpie Mayonnaise" with the hope that it would become as popular as the Kewpie doll.

However, at that time, mayonnaise was still relatively unknown in Japan. Some people even mistook the bottled mayonnaise for hair styling pomade. Consequently, only 120 boxes were sold in the first year.

What makes the taste different?

In Japan, eggs are highly valued, with the average person eating 339 eggs per year. This statics came in 2022 from Mainichi Newspaper. Apparently Mexico ranks first. So the magical ingredient for Kewpie? Is EGGS.

Japanese eggs are known for their deep orange yolks, which come from healthy, free-range hens. Unlike American mayonnaise, which uses the whole egg, Japanese mayonnaise, like Kewpie, uses only the yolks. This gives Kewpie its rich yellow color and creamy, custard-like texture.

Kewpie Mayonnaise contains 4 egg yolks per 500g. The amino acids yielded from the protein of the egg yolks is a key factor for KEWPIE’s tasty, savory flavor.

Kewpie also uses a different vinegar. While American mayonnaise uses distilled vinegar for a sharp taste, Kewpie uses apple cider or rice vinegar for a sweeter, milder flavor. Plus, Kewpie includes MSG, which enhances the taste.

Packaging

In 1958, the company name changed from "Kewpie" to "Kewpie Corporation," and they introduced mayonnaise in a plastic bottle, making it more user-friendly and popular.

To prevent oxidation, the bottle is made from oxygen-blocking polyethylene, and the cap design has evolved to enhance usability. The large 350g bottle features a "3-hole cap" for even spreading, and there's also a versatile "☆ type" cap.

In 1981, Kewpie introduced small stick-type packets, convenient for lunch boxes, work, or hiking. The product line has continued to evolve with flavors like low-calorie mayonnaise, flaxseed oil mayonnaise for those with high blood pressure, and smoked mayonnaise, which pairs well with boiled eggs.

Lastly, if you are interested in some Kewpie recipes: feel free to download it from here.

References:

  • Japanese Mayonnaise: A Unique Condiment Loved by Many" - The Mainichi

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#mayo#japanese food#kewpie#japan#tokyo
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