This dressing has a pleasant bitter/sharp taste good with shellfish, sashimi, sea vegetables, and parboiled vegetables. The recipe in The Japanese Kitchen illustrates using this dressing served with bright green asparagus, pink shrimp, and dark green wakame, served side-by-side. Keep that lovely word picture in your mind as you check out the picture I took when I first started cooking through this book—
—my camera was a brick of a thing with 2 pixel resolution, and my photo skills were about as sophisticated.
Those colors are just wrong!
I served this dressing as a dipping sauce with gyuniku no ranpaku-age—miso-marinated beef in an egg-white jacket. It’s very strong, and a little goes a long way, but delicious. This dressing can be used to coat seasonal fresh fish, shellfish, sea vegetables, and fresh or cooked vegetables.
This Japanese black sesame dressing is very dramatic! The flavor is distinctive and rich. Think about how few black foods we Westerners eat. Licorice. Raisins. Coffee. Burnt toast. This dressing could become a regular part of many menus.
This salad celebrates summer! With home-grown tomatoes and small eggplants it is the essence of the season. Grilling or steaming the eggplant makes it sweet and creamy. The light dressing is flavored with ginger and sesame and is perfect to bring out the sweetness of the vegetables.
If you want a sauce to inspire your creativity in Japanese cooking, this should get you started. Though kimizu—egg and rice vinegar sauce—is not derived from European cooking, you could almost think of it a Japanese Hollandaise sauce. It compliments the same delicate flavors of steamed vegetables, shell-fish, white fish, or chicken breast. I’m betting it would even be good on poached eggs. There is no butter in kimizu, so its bright flavor adds sparkle to blanched asparagus, broccoli, or spinach. It’s a pretty yellow topping to accent pink shrimp. Or make a luxuious salad with lobster or crab and cucumbers; avocado slices would add even more richness. It is served chilled or at room temperature, so you can easily make it a day ahead of a fancy meal.
Even the lowly steamed or blanched vegetable can have a rich and satisfying sauce of its own! I’m thinking this blend of toasted walnuts with sweet white miso would compliment the bitterness of some other vegetables not suggested in the recipe: broccoli rabe, Swiss chard, kale, or mustard greens.
For almost a year, I’ve overlooked this useful recipe. Because it’s not customary in Japanese cooking to drown vegetables in butter, I craved something simple to flavor them. I’d occasionally make up something similar. It turns out that this is a traditional dressing for all kinds of briefly cooked vegetables: broccoli, asparagus, bean sprouts, cabbage, leafy greens. . .
I can understand why Ms. Shimbo notes that this is one of the most popular salad dressings in Japan. Note that a traditional Japanese dinner menu does not usually include a raw vegetable salad as is common in the U.S. and Europe. Cooked, but still bright and crunchy vegetables, such as broccoli, asparagus, and spinach are often served with a dressing. Vegetables are very briefly cooked in boiling water and then plunged into cold water to keep the colors fresh.
Ms. Shimbo says that when she teaches in Tokyo, students ask for “that delicious shoyu dressing” they had at some restaurant. It’s a dressing often served with raw vegetables—the concept of a raw vegetable salad with dressing is a recent import from the West. Though there is not a standard recipe, she knows exactly what they are talking about. Proportions vary, but the dressing always include shoyu, sesame oil, vegetable oil, komezu (rice vinegar), grated vegetables (onion and carrot), sugar, and sesame seeds. I’ve always wondered how to make this dressing too!