TOKYO (THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Sesame seeds and the paste made from them are very popular ingredients in many countries. As you may know, sesame paste is one of the most fundamental ingredients for everyday cooking in Middle Eastern countries. Sesame is also quite popular in the United States, where I live now, and in European countries.
So it is no wonder Japanese dishes using sesame are really popular with everyone in my cookery class. It is a key ingredient in goma-ae (cooked vegetables with sesame dressing) and black sesame pudding.
In traditional Japanese cuisine, we do not eat much fresh salad. However, I would love to share my favourite salad with sesame dressing. This is delicious and easy to make for everyday meals.
To create a richer flavour, I mix ground sesame with sesame paste.
It is even nicer if you grind the sesame seeds yourself. Another tip for a delicious salad is to use Japanese mayonnaise that contains apple or rice vinegar instead of distilled vinegar and water. Such mayonnaise with fermented vinegar gives a thicker texture and a richer, fresher flavour. If you live outside of Japan, you can find it online or in Asian grocery stores.
Any salad leaves or veggies or even fruits like figs go well with this dressing.
Mari’s recipe for salad with sesame dressing
For the salad:
1 pack of chrysanthemum leaves or any green salad leaves
For the goma dressing:
1 Tbs neri-goma (Japanese sesame paste)
1 Tbs toasted white sesame seeds
1 Tbs Japanese mayonnaise
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs grapeseed oil
½ Tbs soy sauce
½ Tbs honey
1. If you cannot find toasted sesame seeds, toast raw sesame seeds until they become golden brown. Using a mortar or food processor, grind the seeds until they become a powder. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk well, or mix in a food processor. It is easier to get a creamy consistency with a food processor.
2. Dice the mango. Tear the chrysanthemum leaves from the stems. (You can use the stems later in a stir-fry or soup.) Crush the almonds roughly.
3. Toss the chrysanthemum leaves with the dressing. Combine with mango and almonds and serve on a plate.
I love to use fresh chrysanthemum leaves with their slightly bitter taste in this salad. Of course, spinach or romaine lettuce go well, too. Mango brings sweet, tangy notes to the plate, while almonds add texture and a nutty, tart touch.
If you do not live in Japan, you can substitute tahini — a popular food in the eastern Mediterranean region — for Japanese sesame paste (neri-goma). Though both pastes are made out of pure sesame, there are some differences.
Generally, tahini is raw sesame paste, while Japanese neri-goma uses roasted seeds, creating a richer and nuttier paste with a darker colour. Because it is toasted, most of my students say it smells exactly like peanut butter.
If you want to get that flavour into your salad, you can add toasted sesame powder to tahini or try non-sweetened peanut butter, instead. You may also be able to find Chinese sesame paste, which is called zhi ma jiang. However, this is made of sesame paste mixed with vegetable oil, so it is not a substitute for neri-goma.
You will enjoy this sesame dressing with any seasonal salad greens plus fig, persimmon, apple and so on. But it is also delicious on thinly sliced beef or even noodles.