What do I mean by nuanced? Nuance means subtle difference in shade, meaning, expression… In food, nuance can refer to flavor and texture. In the case of this salad, it is both.
Let’s start with flavors. Salty ham and cheese. Sweet pineapple. Sweet-sour pickle relish.
Then, let’s go to textures. Lightly chewy noodles, crisp carrot and celery, creamy mayo.
If all the ingredients of your salad are well-distributed, every forkful (or spoonful) of salad will be salty, sweet, sour, chewy, crisp and creamy. As you chew, there is a smooth and seamless interplay of flavors and textures to deliver the best macaroni salad experience.
Are these ingredients always present in my macaroni salad? No. The vegetables may differ. Sometimes, I add cucumber and omit the celery. Sometimes, I add chopped hard-boiled eggs. Other times, I opt for whole hard-boiled quail eggs. There are even times when I toss in finely sliced lettuce.
So, no, the ingredients are not always strictly the same. But there are two things that I will never ever include in my macaroni salad.
Three of the worst macaroni salad I’ve ever eaten, from bad to worst
- Macaroni salad with sweetened condensed milk
- Macaroni salad with raisins
- Macaroni salad with raisins and sweetened condensed milk
Now, note that I don’t dislike raisins. I always add them when cooking menudo.
And we love sweetened condensed milk here at home, especially for making Vietnamese-style coffee or to cook into dulce de leche.
Right, I love them both — just not in macaroni salad.
Macaroni salad with ham and cheese
- 250 grams macaroni cooked al dente, drained and cooled
- 2 to 3 cups cubed salty ham
- 1 cup cubed cheese
- ½ cup mayonnaise I recommend Japanese mayo
- 1 to 1½ cups crushed pineapple drained
- ¼ to ⅓ cup sweet pickle relish
- ¼ to ⅓ cup slightly boiled and chopped carrot
- ¼ to ⅓ cup chopped celery
- 1 salt
- ¼ ground white pepper
- sugar only if the pineapple is not sufficiently sweet
- In a mixing bowl, toss everything together until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Cover the bowl tightly, pop into the fridge and leave to rest for several hours, preferably overnight.
- Take the salad out of the fridge, and give it a taste.
- Add salt, pepper and sugar, as needed for a well-rounded flavor profile.
- If the salad appears dry, add more mayo and toss.
- Put the salad back in the fridge for at least an hour to allow the flavors to blend once more.
- Serve chilled.