I was having one of those days today. You know the feeling you get when you’ve been wronged or when you’re the victim of gratuitous rudeness? Yeah, that’s what I felt today. There’s usually two sure-fire ways to alleviate that feeling: Confront the problem head on and contend with human unreasonableness or…drown your sorrows in something delicious that makes you feel great and is good for you. I chose the latter option. Actually I first chose the former option but that didn’t end well so here I am. I have to say, I’m in happy territory now, so alls well that ends with food!
If you’ve ever been to a Japanese restaurant waiting for your dinner to arrive, you may have been served a salad in a little bowl that looks similar to this. It is usually served to stave off your hunger as you wait for your sushi and hand rolls to be prepared. It is almost always served with iceberg lettuce with a medley of veggies such as tomatoes, red onions or, less often, avocado.
It’s not the best looking salad, but what is lacks in appearance it makes up for in taste. This dressing is pungent to say the least, with a generous bite of ginger, the taste of miso and rice vinegar and the unmistakable flavour of sesame oil. If you’ve never tasted sesame oil, you simply have to try it. It’s rich and nutty and has a beautifully pungent aroma. (I use if often in Asian stir-fry and rice dishes.) When paired with rice vinegar in this dressing, the acidic quality of the vinegar which brightens the dressing and the nutty quality of the sesame oil are a perfect match.
The miso paste has a wonderful depth of flavour. When you hear the word “miso”, it is almost always associated with a warm, comforting broth that is used in Japanese cooking but the paste has so many more applications than just soup, such as being used as a marinade for chicken or fish or as a flavour element in a salad dressing. Miso paste is essentially a blend of salt, soy beans and either rice or barley, which is fermented and ground. There are as many varieties of miso are there are uses. Some are sweet and light in colour and are best used in dressings and sauces while others are saltier and dark in colour and are best used in stews and meat dishes. Any variety of miso can be used to make miso soup.
When I’m enjoying this in a restaurant, I can’t get enough of it. They usually give you a tiny serving and I’m always craving more. Iceberg lettuce never tasted so good until it was doused with this delicious, bright and flavourful dressing. I’ve been in search of a recipe that comes close to what’s served in authentic Japanese restaurants and I reckon this is damn-near perfect! I won’t tell you that this is the best dressing you’ll ever taste because, although I LOVE this dressing, it is an acquired taste. If you’re not a fan of sesame oil or raw ginger, you may not be a fan. When I made this, I served it up to my mum and sister-in-law and while my mum was raving about how delicious it was whilst gobbling up a huge helping of this for lunch, my sister-in-law (who isn’t a fan of sesame oil or miso) took a few bites then passed on it and moved on to the rest of my Asian-inspired meal.
This dressing recipe is adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Lifestyle Publication, “GOOP”. I’ve made a few changes to her recipe and a few additions and the result is delicious. It is perfect on top of fresh lettuce and the creamy avocado pieces with the red onions give it a little extra bite and colour.
I’ve used baby carrots here because that’s all I had on hand. The baby carrots can be swapped out for one large, peeled carrot — in fact, I encourage that as I find the flavour of a large carrot is superior to its baby counterparts.