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Potato Salad - Unknown Ingredient

I used to purchase a deli potato salad that had a very distinctive taste to it. This was at a Wawa in Philadelphia in 1982. I found a similar (if not the same) potato salad in the Harrisburg area in 1997. Both places no longer carry this particular potato salad. At the second place it was labeled their 'Classic' potato salad.

Anyway, in addition to the taste of mayo and some mustard, vinegar and some sweetness there was a flavor that had a bit of a tang and a bit of a burn. Not hot (piquant) but almost a tingle. This is hard to describe.

When trying to replicate it (I've tried a lot of things...) the thing that came closest was probably juice from a jar of pickled banana pepper rings, but it still was not it.

I'm thinking it might have been sodium benzoate? or another preservative? or monosodium glutemate? It did enhance my flavor experience of the potato salad (umami). And as much as I crave that taste, my wife has an equally strong aversion to it.

Any ideas?

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  1. Could it have been Horseraddish? Many years ago I used to buy a deli coleslaw with a very distinctive horseraddish flavour which I absolutly loved.

    2 Replies
    1. re: justlizikaria

      Interesting thought. I will try that. A small amount (just enough) would certainly add those properties...

      1. re: justlizikaria

        I was going to suggest horseradish too. I spike a lot of things that have mayo with a bit of horseradish sauce. That's a bit lighter and smoother without the risk that someone will bite directly into a larger piece of raw grated horseradish.

      2. I don't know about chemical preservatives and taste, but I wonder if you can find a piccalilli to match that flavor profile. Many are both hot and sweet.

        Proustian memories of that potato salad, no? From 1982---wow!

        1 Reply
          1. In the old days, potato salad had a lot more vinegar. Also gherkin pickle juice was often used to punch it up.

            1 Reply
            1. re: coll

              I've also heard of brining the potatoes in pickle juice.

            2. Whole grain mustard? I use it in a fish sauce and my 6 year old daughter always says "those little red things burn".

              1 Reply