Friday food treat: Japanese salads

Japanese Radish Salad

Japanese Radish Salad

One of the surprising things for me, about Japanese cuisine, is the salads. I did not expect such a number of salads to be on offer, or that they would be so tasty!

Since being in Hirafu we seem to have consumed more salads than I imagined I ever would in winter. There are two reasons for this. They are so easy to make and we have limited cooking facilities. To fully embrace Japanese salads, we are trying different ingredients and combinations.

We had Japanese radish salad recently (pictured above). It was a mix of lettuce, white radish matchsticks, carrot matchsticks, cherry tomatoes and a ball of mashed pumpkin. The salad dressing seemed to be a blend of soy sauce, perhaps sesame oil and mirin and was garnished with bonito flakes – which added a salty contrast. Yum!

Salad ingredients
Japanese salads use a range of ingredients that are mostly raw or lightly cooked:

  • leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce and cabbage
  • root vegetables like carrots, daikon (white radish) and burdock (cooked)
  • seaweed – usually rinsed well, sometimes cooked a little, then mixed with other vegetables
  • other fruits/vegetables like tomatoes, cooked pumpkin, bean sprouts, avocado and cucumber

Often dishes focus on one ingredient such as a bean sprout salad or a cucumber salad, with a spiced dressing enhancing contrasting flavours.

Salad dressings
The supermarket has a vast array of salad dressings. Even though I can’t read the labels, I am pretty sure there is a lot of sugar in them. So I have been doing some research to make them myself. There seem to be a few staple ingredients used.

  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • rice vinegar
  • mirin
  • garlic, ginger and other spices
  • sugar!

At least if you make your own at home, you can control the sugar quantity. I think it is included to balance the other flavours.

Salad garnishes
There are no surprises in the emphasis on food presentation here. Some of the garnishes include:

  • sesame seeds – black and white
  • spring onion scallions
  • bonito flakes (dried fish flakes)

So – what’s for dinner tonight? Salad of course!

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