Hawaiian Mac Potato Salad

He Mele A Hilo, Recipes / Friday, August 29th, 2014
Serves: an extended family


3/4 pounds elbow macaroni
2 russet potatoes, peeled
8 hard boiled eggs (fresh eggs are best, and try not to overboil)
Best Foods Mayonnaise (the only acceptable brand)
1 cup frozen peas (you can add less peas, but I like peas.)
1 can bay shrimp. Instead of bay shrimp, you can add crab meat if you want to be fancy, or Spam, if you want to be unfancy.
salt and pepper (Johnnie’s or Lawry’s can work here)


¼ cup grated (not sliced) onion. I don’t add this ‘cuz my family is so-so on onions.

1 tbsp cider vinegar, if you must. I think this screws up the taste, but some people like it. I think they must be from O’ahu.
Note: Don’t even think of adding Italian dressing or pickle relish.

Boil the macaroni. Overcook it a bit so it gets softer. Strain and rinse with cold water.
Rinse, boil, and dice the potatoes. It’s okay if the fall apart a little.
Peel and dice the eggs. Or just use an egg slicer if you’re not too picky.
Drain and rinse the shrimp.
Combine everything except the salt and pepper into a big mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of  mayonnaise right away, then more until the whole thing sounds sloppy and wet. Mix gently with your hand so as not to crush the potatoes and eggs.
Salt and pepper to just less than taste. As the flavors combine, the seasonings go farther.
Cover and put in the fridge. Tastes best if kept overnight. Some people sprinkle paprika over the top before serving. I think it’s kind of pretty that way.

It’s December 2012, and I am terrified. My mother is sick, so I am making the family Christmas dinner. Main dishes? No problem. Veggies? Fine. What is scaring me is the mac salad. Mac salad seems simple, but the way we make it in the islands is special. Get haole mac salad and local mac salad, and from the first bite, you can tell. You have to get it right, otherwise the meal isn’t local. Usually one person in the family makes the mac salad.

So I am freakin’ nervous. I know the basics. Overcook the macaroni. Add shrimp. Boil fresh eggs. Use only Best Foods mayonnaise. But still I have no confidence. Then, I start, and the weirdest thing happens. I start to flash back. I see my mother peeling the potatoes. I see my grandmother mixing the mayo. And when I start mixing, I remember that my grandma knew she had added enough, not by a measuring cup, but by the sound.

I finish the salad, and the next day, I give my mother a spoon. She tastes it, looks at me, and seems surprised. I think it’s a good surprised. Then she says, “Hey… This real Hawaiian mac salad!” I swear this is one of the best moments of my life. I want to jump and shout I did it! And after dinner, she tells me, “from now on, you make the mac salad for us.”