Korean panchan -- Origin of potato salad?
At lunch today, our Korean bento boxes included a panchan I've had at several restaurants: potato salad, very much like "American" mayonnaise-based potato salad.
Does anyone know the origin of this dish? Has it been assimilated from Americans stationed in Korea, a la Spam? Or is this something that sprung up of its own accord in Korea?
I don't have a well-researched answer but your speculation sounds about right. As you probably know, potato salad shows up in Japanese home-style cooking as well. When I lived in LA I would order take away occasionally from a restaurant and was forever forgetting that it wasn't sufficient to say 'no potato salad' because they would routinely oblige me with macaroni salad instead.
Potatoes came to Asia from North America several hundred years ago. Mayonnaise came to Asia from the West mid-century, coinciding with the advent of refrigeration and Hellman's (the Japanese apparently put it on everything). Therefore, Watson, I believe it's safe to deduce from that that mayonnaise-based potato salad came to the East from the West as well.
Potato salad very similar to American-style potato salad is also in the repertoire of most home cooks in Shanghai. In fact, the word "sala" in Shanghainese dialect MEANS potato salad. I've always thought it dated to the International Settlement days (but that's a "window" of close to a hundred years, ending in 1945). It also seems to a popular accompaniment to Japanese food.