Tag Archives: Aemono 和え物

Miso Vinaigrette


I never get bored with dressed green salads. After years of having it regularly, both as a side-dish and a starter, I am always excited at the discovery of a new dressing, especially when warm spring days arrive and salad leaves are bought with higher frequency. This miso vinaigrette is simple, but original in its creamy consistency and quite complex taste it owes to miso. I have written below a short recipe, but to put it simply, it’s a traditional mustard vinaigrette with miso used instead of mustard. Accidentally this salad was a perfect company for the recently posted Chicken with Soy Sauce, Garlic and Molasses.

Miso has been frequently appearing on my table (see below) for several years now, but I have never thought of putting it into a vinaigrette. I have found this excellent and obvious idea in Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu, an American married to a Japanese farmer and living in rural area for several decades. The book contains both classic recipes and Nancy Singleton’s own inventions based on local ingredients. It is also full of stories about family, neighbours, local producers and, in general, describes life in the Japanese countryside. The book is a particularly compelling read, a beautiful object, a good source of recipes and I strongly advise it to all the Japanese cuisine fans, even novices because the majority of the recipes are easy and clearly explained.

For those who haven’t tasted miso (味噌), it’s a thick paste made by fermenting soybeans and/or barley or rice and one of the most important ingredients of the Japanese cuisine (Korean and Chinese cuisines use very similar pastes too). Miso is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals and some people claim it even helps to fight the radiation sickness. In Japan miso has three main colour types: white (shiromiso), red (akamiso), black (kuromiso), and there is also mixed miso (awasemiso). The only downside of miso is that is can be very high in sodium, so look for special “low sodium” misos (some high quality misos don’t even have this mention, but are less salty). Whatever the salt content, white miso has always a milder taste, so it’s a good idea to start one’s adventure with light-coloured miso. Apart from the three basic colours, there are myriads of different misos, depending on the brand or producer, the ingredients, the region…

If you have bought a tub of miso and wonder what to do with it, you might like:


Asparagus and Chicken Stir-Fried with Miso Sauce


Garlic Miso Chicken Breast


Miso Soup with Shrimp and Tofu


Mackerel Simmered in Miso


Chicken and Aubergine in Garlic Miso Sauce

And if you look for other salad dressing ideas, you might be interested in my recent delicious and very unusual discovery:


Sesame Paste (Tahini) Dressing

Apparently I am not the only one who eats more salads at the arrival of spring. This week Nami (Just One Cookbook) has posted a gorgeous seaweed salad and a miso (!) dressing, while Gourmantine (Gourmantine’s Blog) has presented no more no less but eight salad dressings. Visit their blogs for more inspiration!

TIPS: The below amounts should only be treated as approximate and adjusted to your taste, the miso kind or brand. (I have slightly modified the original amounts too). I have added some agave syrup to mellow the flavours (not present in the original recipe), but it’s not necessary.

I don’t like my salads drown in sauce, so double the below amounts if you prefer a very moist, rich salad.

Preparation: 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves two – three):

1/3 lettuce head, washed and torn into smaller pieces

(cucumber, tomatoes or any other raw vegetables cut into pieces)


3 heaped teaspoons miso of your choice (I wouldn’t advise the very dark, strong miso)

2 teaspoons oil

4 teaspoons rice vinegar

(1 teaspoon syrup or honey in case you need to adjust the taste; I have used agave syrup)

In a glass combine well the vinaigrette ingredients.

Place the salad leaves and other vegetables in a bowl and pour the miso vinaigrette over them just before serving.

Aubergine with Ponzu, Miso and Sesame Sauce

This is another lovely recipe I have found on Nami’s extraordinary blog (Just One Cookbook) and another one which confirms my fondness of the aubergine. If, like me a couple of years ago, you associate the aubergine with fat-soaked tasteless slices, you should try this simple and healthy dish, which makes me regret the aubergine season is almost over. I think it’s an excellent introduction to the sophisticated and simple way the Japanese cook their vegetables, bringing the best out of their subtle taste.

I hope Nami will not be angry to learn I have slightly changed her recipe, skipping konbucha/kombucha (昆布茶, “seaweed tea”), one of the sauce ingredients I kept on forgetting to buy. According to Nami its presence guaranteed umami taste, so for me miso (fermented soy bean paste), as the quintessence of umami, was the obvious substitute to experiment with. The experiment was so successful that now, having tried both versions I couldn’t say which one I prefer. Both create a perfect, complex flavours’ combination of flavours and both are ideal with the grilled aubergine. The sauce with konbucha is lighter and more delicate, while the one with miso is creamier and has a stronger taste. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t advice any substitute for ponzu (ポン酢), a mixture of soy sauce and yuzu juice. I tried once to combine soy sauce with lemon, then with lime juice, but the results were not satisfactory.)

After much hesitation I have decided to post the miso version in case some of you don’t have konbucha (it’s a bit more difficult to get than miso), but I strongly encourage you to follow Nami’s original recipe and try both of them.

I have accidentally discovered this grilled aubergine is ideal served with Garlic Miso Chicken Breast Skewers, also adapted from Nami’s Garlic Miso Chicken Wings recipe). Nami, I am so grateful for the sophisticated simplicity and delight your Japanese meals bring to my table!

Preparation: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

1 medium eggplant, in 1/2 cm thick slices

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 flat tablespoons chopped chives or green onions

3 tablespoons chopped shiso leaves


2 tablespoons ponzu

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon miso (or 1/4 teaspoon konbucha, click here to see the details on Nami’s blog)

Brush both sides of the aubergine slices with sesame oil and grill them or pan-fry them on both sides. (Or heat some oil in the pan instead of brushing the slices).

In the meantime combine the ingredients of the sauce (I close them in a small container with a lid and shake like a cocktail; it helps to dissolve the cold miso).

Arrange the aubergine on a plate, sprinkle with chives and shiso and pour the sauce.

Serve warm or cold (I prefer it warm).

Japanese Onion Salad

Before seeing this dish on Hiroyuki’s Blog on Japanese Cooking I had never heard of a raw onion – based salad and had not imagined it might be palatable. Yet, on Hiroyuki’s photo it looked both intriguing and seducing, so I decided to try it as soon as possible. When I finally took the first bite, I was simply speechless. I still find it hard to understand how an onion salad can be so refreshing, light and complex, even though the other ingredients play here an irreplaceable role. Together with the Tomato and Shiso Salad, it has become one of my staple side dishes for hot days. Thank you, Hiroyuki, for this excellent and original recipe!

If you cook Japanese, you probably already have all the necessary ingredients. If you don’t, the only two “exotic” products you need to buy is katsubobushi (shaved bonito) and ponzu sauce (which may be substituted here by a mixture of soy sauce and lime juice). I have lots of shallots I was offered by my family, so I used shallots instead of onion. Soaking onion is not necessary, but I don’t like the harsh onion taste and always do this.

Preparation: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 medium onions or two shallots

1 handful of shaved bonito (katsuobushi)

3 tablespoons ponzu (or 2 tablespoons soy sauce+1 tablespoon lime juice)

1 heaped tablespoon mayonnaise

Cut the onion/shallot into thin slices (or use a mandolin to make transparent slices).

Put them in a bowl of cold water and let it soak for 15 minutes (or not, if you like a stronger onion taste).

Drain and pat dry.

Put the onion on a serving plate.

Sprinkle with ponzu, cover with katsuobushi and top with mayonnaise.


Tomato and Shiso Salad

shiso_tomatosForget the basil, forget the chives, the mint or the parsley; shiso is undeniably the tomato’s best friend. Shiso (紫蘇) or perilla, a staple in the Japanese cuisine, has a herbaceous, slightly bitter flavour and a strong aroma. It is used as well in raw as in cooked dishes (see the Ume-Shiso Chicken Skewers). I took to shiso instantly and the more I use it the more I like it. Looking for some shiso use ideas I stumbled upon a wonderful inspiring blog called Humble Bean, where I found the Tomato and Shiso Salad and felt at once I would not be disappointed.

I was right. The salad was a revelation. It is falsely simple, yet proves sophisticated and complex, which for me is a perfect definition of the Japanese cuisine. The sweetness of the tomato, the bitterness of the shiso and the lively crunch of the onion are already an  ideal combination, but the delicate sauce makes it extraordinary. The salad is so addictive I served it two days in a row and I feel I could have it not only every day, but with every meal or even in between, as a light snack. The only modification was substituting the onion with a shallot (I ran out of onions). In theory the below amount serves two, but for me it makes only one portion for one shiso addict. Thank you, Azusa, for this marvellous discovery.


An old photograph with a big tomato and green/red shiso variety from Thailand

Preparation: 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

1 big chilled tomato (or ten mini-tomatoes halved lengthwise)

3 big shiso leaves (both green and red are delicious here, in my opinion)

1/2 small onion (I used 1/2 shallot)


1/2 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

several turns of the freshly ground pepper

Remove the tomato stem and slice it.

Chop finely the onion and soak it for 5 minutes in cold water.

Do the same with shiso (in a separate bowl).

Combine the sauce ingredients.

Drain the onion and the shiso and pat dry.

Arrange the tomato slices in a bowl.

Sprinkle with the onion, then with shiso and drizzle the sauce over it.

Snow Peas Shira-ae (白和え)

When I saw Green Bean Shira – ae recipe at Nami’s blog (Just One Cookbook) I knew I would love the dish. Miso, tofu and sesame seeds are my beloved Japanese cuisine ingredients, and shira-ae (白和え) is a dish of vegetables mixed with these ingredients. How could I resist? Instead of the green beans I used blanched snow peas, now in season, and the result was even better than I thought: delicate and light, but very filling at the same time. A perfect side-dish and maybe even a main dish for vegetarians? Thank you, Nami, for sharing this fabulous recipe!

Shira-ae means more or less “mixed/dressed with white” and belongs to the “aemono “, or “dressed dishes” category, which could be compared to the Western salads or side dishes, since it includes vegetables with a sauce without vinegar. Shira-ae is for me a double discovery: not only is it the first aemono dish I have ever made, but also the first one I have ever tasted. “Sunomono” is another, very close category  including vinegared dishes, but I haven’t explored it yet.

Even though my dish looks different from Nami’s one, I have followed her instructions to the letter, apart from substituting the sugar with mirin. I have also adjusted the amounts to make an individual dish (I am the only tofu fan at home). At the time I prepared it I didn’t have the Japanese mortar (now I do and intend using it very often!), but the Western type of mortar was very efficient in grinding sesame seeds too. You may use also an electric grinder, but the smell gradually created during the process of manual sesame grinding is incredible and worth the tiny effort.

Special equipment:

a mortar or a spice grinder

Preparation: 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

100 g snow peas (trimmed and cut in two)

50 g tofu

2 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds

1 teaspoon miso

1 teaspoon mirin (or sugar)

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Drain the tofu.

Grind the sesame seeds in a Japanese mortar (suribachi), a standard European mortar or in a spice grinder.

Add the remaining ingredients.

Blanch the snow peas.

Put the snow peas in a bowl and combine with all the above ingredients and the crumbled tofu.

Serve warm or cold.