The idea of a salad at many Japanese restaurants in America is some iceberg lettuce, julliened carrots and a cherry tomato (if your lucky) - topped with a creamy, sesame dressing. I can say that I am sometimes a fan of this combination, but it's really not the kind of salad you will ever see in Tokyo. Iceberg lettuce with sesame dressing is basically an American salad with "Japanese" dressing.
Izakaya's in Tokyo serve a plethora of salads - from daikon salads, to cucumber sunomono to shrimp salads. But the thing that was so obviously Japanese (wafu) about salads in Tokyo were that most, if not all, the ingredients were derived from the Japanese cuisine ingredient list. We are talking tofu, seafood and seaweed, not cheese, bacon bits and lettuce.
The best part about concocting a Japanese salad is that it can be way less time-consuming to make than an American or leaf-based salad that requires rinsing, straining, spinning and tearing or cutting. In fact, this post could very well be fit into Kayoko's beloved Lazyass Cookin' series, so I decided to throw "Lazyass" into the title of this post.
The second best part about Japanese salads is that they are most likely protein-heavy and pack plenty of flavor. See for yourself. Here are the ingredients for my salad.
For the salad:
1/2 a block of tofu, cubed
2 tbs of dried wakame (rehydrated)
a handful of cherry tomatoes
2 tbs of natto (optional - you can also substitute with boiled shrimp or sesame seeds)
For the dressing:
1/2 tsp of Wasabi
Pinch of sugar
2 tsp of Yuzu Passion ponzu* (or other varieties of Ponzu)
1 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
3 tsp EVOO
Mix together all the ingredients for the dressing. Mix them together in a measuring cup for an even pour onto the salad later.
* Mainstream ponzu such as Mizkan's Ajipon or Kikkoman's Ponzu can be used, but be aware that these varieties have MSG in them, and in a salad dressing the MSG taste can be very obvious. I have been using Yuzu Passion's Yuzu Soy Sauce which contains no MSG and makes a huge difference especially in a salad where nothing is cooked and every ingredient is tasted. Also, yuzu really adds a curiously good kick of freshness that lemons can't (which is what the mainstream folks use).
For the salad, cube up the tofu, rehydrate the wakame (10-20 minutes), wash the cherry tomatoes and reserve about 2 tbs of natto. The concept is similar to a caprese salad, except the tofu replaces the mozerella, and the wakame replaces the basil leaves.
For an aesthetically pleasing salad, its best to stack the ingredients from largest to smallest. So I layered them on the plate in the following order: tofu, cherry tomatoes, wakame and natto.
Once the dressing has had time to sit for about 10 minutes (or roughly the time it takes to put together the salad) mix it up again so that the oil is evenly distributed with the other ingredients and slowly pour the dressing onto the salad. The great thing about wakame and tofu is that they will soak up the dressing and every bite will be delightfully saturated with dressing.
This is a perfect dish to whip up for an emergency dinner party. Except for the Yuzu soy sauce (which can be substituted for mainstream ponzu) and the dry wakame, all the items should be available at the corner store.