Shira-ae: Dressed in White

It’s interesting to travel the world by way of dinner. Last evening included an array of dishes from eastern Europe, Greece, and Japan. And like any trip where you plan too many activities in a very short time, the experience was perhaps odd.

avgolémono meatball soup

Gefilte Fish, Avgolémono Meatball Soup, Salad with Shira-Ae

In three dishes, we ate two sphere-shaped foods, and two that are creamy without dairy products. This coincidence must have come from my subconscious thoughts about the holiday and the circle of life and the endless cycle of changing seasons. Though we don’t follow kosher dietary laws most of the year, I make an effort during the holidays to not eat milk and meat together; thus the craving for forbidden “cream.”
But, what does this have to do with being “Dressed in White?” Click to find out!

First, eastern Europe: we had gefilte fish. No matter how I try, I cannot make only enough for two people so these were a recapitulation (ok, leftovers!). These were a sort of experimental gefilte fish, made into very small quenelles with salmon poached in a light dashi broth. There is a recipe in my book for “sardine dumplings in consummé” that inspired me. The gefilte fish tasted good, though they were a little dry because the salmon was not particularly fatty. And Mr. Tess kindly held his tongue, not saying that they were not like his grandmother’s.

Greek Meatball Soup

Next, I made a Greek avgolémono meatball soup called Youvarlákia from Jacoba at Just Food Now. Who can resist the wonderful creamy-tangy combination of an egg and lemon sauce?   The first time I made such a sauce, it was for a Moroccan pastilla (or bastilla, bsteeya, b’stilla), and it seemed like a miracle how the chicken broth became light and velvety. This soup is much easier to make, and delicious. I wasn’t sure about adding raw rice to meatballs, but the rice cooked as the meatballs simmered. When I added the egg-lemon mixture, the soup was transformed. The pictures don’t look as rich and golden as the real soup!

Shira Ae Sesame Tofu Dressing

Finally, we ate a Japanese salad with a creamy sesame-tofu dressing. I really liked the cheerful freshness of the fruit, though it’s hidden under the dressing in the pictures.
In all, the menu was an odd mix of flavors and if this were a restaurant review I’d say the chef was more ambitious than prudent.

Asparagus, Papaya, and Apple in a Creamy Tofu Dressing

4 servings, as a side dish
page 138
The Dressing:

  • Shira-Ae Tofu Sesame Dressing1/2 block firm tofu (about 7 ounces)
  • 2 Tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted
  • 3 Tablespoons sesame paste, preferably Japanese
    (I used tahini)
  • 1 Tablespoon usukuchi shoyu (light colored soy sauce) or regular soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon mirin (sweet cooking wine)
  • Salt

Blanch the tofu for 20 seconds, drain and place it in a tightly woven cloth. Squeeze to remove excess water. Note: I really squeezed the tofu dry; after putting this recipe together, it seems that you should really leave the tofu a little damp.
In a suribachi (or other mortoar) grind the toasted sesame seeds fine. Add the sesame paste, and grind until the mixture is well combined. Add the tofu, and grind until the mixture is creamy and fluffy. Note: This is where my overly squeezed tofu failed to fluff, so I had to add some water.
Mix in the shoyu, mirin, and salt to taste. The dressing can be covered and refrigerated for use later in the day.
The Salad:Shira Ae Sesame Tofu Dressing

  • 9 ounces asparagus, tough ends removed
    I should have known better than to buy it out of season: it was woody so I had to peel it. Zucchini or green beans would have been better!
  • 1papaya, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    (original recipe: 1/2 large mango, but they are out of season here)
  • 1 crisp, tart apple, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and
  • tossed with lemon juice

Parboil the asparagus for 1 minute. Drain and plunge it into cold water to stop the cooking. Wipe it dry and cut into 1-inch pieces. (Ms. Shimbo says 1/2″)
Have the fruit ready. You want the salad ingredients dry so the dressing doesn’t become diluted, so I had to drain the juice from the papaya.
Immediately before serving, toss the salad ingredients with the dressing. Serve in individual bowls, or place it next to grilled fish or meat on a plate.

,the Japanese name for this salad dressing literally means “dressed in white.” This dressing is indeed creamy because it’s made with tofu and sesame paste. It contains no dairy products at all! Traditional salad ingredients include flavored and simmered carrot, hijiki sea vegetable, spinach, and chrysanthemum leaves.
Return to the top, and continue reading!

gefilte fish montage

Other dips and sauces from Tess
Other salads from Tess

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An animated dinner Yom Kippur

5 thoughts on “Shira-ae: Dressed in White

  1. Hi Tess, you came and commented on my chicken’s blog. Thanks for the good wishes. :) I came to see your blog and oh my goodness, Japanese food! Yay!!! I’m just getting into Japanese food and bento lunches and so forth, so you can bet I’m going to be stopping by your site frequently. The recipes look yummy!

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    I was happy to see that Peepers is doing better!
    I’m not doing bentos, but the link “Just Hungry” on my blog-roll has an amazing sister-site. The Japanese food I cook, mostly from my project-book, is mostly delicious. And so far it’s home cooking so it’s very do-able. Let me know if you make something…
    best wishes

  3. Youvarlakia Avgolemono

    Eggs and lemons create a creamy base that lifts this soup right out of the ordinary. It is lightly thickened with rice always concealing the herb infused meat balls turning it into a hearty meal fit for any dinner party.


    500 g minced beef
    100 g Arborio rice
    1 medium onion, peeled and pureed
    125 ml Greek extra virgin olive oil
    1 fresh bayleaf
    Salt to taste
    Freshly ground black pepper to taste
    1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
    2 lemons, zest only
    1 egg

    Mix the minced beef, uncooked rice, pureed onion, zest of 2 lemons, salt and pepper with the whole raw egg in a bowl. Mix well and form little meatballs by hand, remembering to oil your hands well with olive oil to prevent them from sticking.
    Boil water in a saucepan filled well with water and the bay leaf, adding some olive oil to the water. Now slide the meatballs into the water so that they can simmer in the water, on medium heat, for about 40 minutes to ensure that both meatballs and rice are cooked.
    Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf and stir in the avgolémono gently, check and correct the salt and pepper, add the parsley and serve hot with bread

    * You can add soured cream if you find it too thin for your taste.


    2 eggs, separated
    Juice of the 2 lemons above (in soup recipe)
    2 ½ cups stock from the main dish

    Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are stiff.
    Beat the egg yolks and add the lemon juice and the slightly cooled down stock to them bit by bit, stirring constantly.
    Now add this sauce to the main dish and fold it in carefully but do not allow it to cook any further

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