Recipe: Mainese, the pink potato salad from the Cook Islands

In celebration of Cook Islands Language Week, we explain how to make the potato salad that the Cook Islands is known for.

The spinoff’s designer, Tina Tiller, is a proud Kūki ‘Āirani (of Cook Islands heritage) and shared with me her mother’s recipe for Mainese, including how to make the mayonnaise dressing from scratch.

You can substitute store-bought mayonnaise for the dressing if you’re pressed for time, which Tina says is the more modern option.

This year’s theme for ‘Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani (Cook Islands Language Week) is ‘Ātuitui’ia au ki te oneone o toku ‘Ui Tupuna – connect me to the soil of my ancestors – and this potato salad does just that, people in the Cook Islands of New Zealand connects to their language, culture and identity through food.



For 5-7 servings

The salad:

  • 7 medium to large potatoes
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • 400 g drained beetroot slices from a can
  • Salt
  • lettuce

Mayonnaise Dressing:

  • 1 egg
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 liter salad and cooking oil (a very light oil is recommended)
  • white wine vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • Salt

The salad

Peel the potatoes and dice into small cubes (1.5 cm in size).

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt to the water, then add the diced potatoes.

Cook the potatoes until they are tender and firm enough so that they don’t get crushed when you mix them with the other ingredients.

The potatoes will continue to cook after draining, so it’s important not to overcook the potatoes. (Photo: Included)

While the potatoes are cooking, add water in a smaller saucepan to cook your eggs in.

In another small saucepan, add water and your mixed vegetables and cook.

Once all of the ingredients are cooked on the stovetop, drain the potatoes and place the potatoes and mixed vegetables in a large mixing bowl.

Peel the shells from the eggs and set aside to cool.


Place the yolks in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric whisk until thickened and lightly colored.

Slowly add the oil while stirring constantly. This takes time so don’t rush as you don’t want the eggs and oil to separate.

Add vinegar or lemon juice and salt while stirring until desired flavor is achieved.

Assemble the salad

Cut the beetroot slices into small cubes and place in the large mixing bowl filled with the potatoes and mixed vegetables.

In the large mixing bowl with vegetables, grate two boiled eggs and mix thoroughly.

Add about ½ to 1 cup of the freshly made mayonnaise dressing to the mixture until the entire salad is evenly coated.

NB: Save some mayonnaise dressing for the top of the salad.

The taste of here is up to you – taste the salad and add more salt, mayonnaise or another ingredient until it’s perfect for you. Some people like to add chow chow (about 100g) or Dijon mustard.

Wash the lettuce leaves and arrange them around the rim of the salad plate.

Pour the salad mixture into the pan and gently smooth the mixture out with a spoon.

Cover the entire lettuce pile with an even layer of the reserved mayonnaise, then garnish by evenly rubbing the remaining boiled eggs on top.

This is public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air.