Salad with Sesame Paste Dressing


If, every time you open a jar of sesame paste, you have to close your eyes to fully enjoy the inebriating, nutty fragrance and never resist stealing a teaspoonful, then this recipe is for you. I know it looks like a bowl of ordinary lettuce, but it’s much more than that. The leaves are delicately seasoned with the creamiest, richest salad dressing I have ever made. If used in moderation (this is why it is barely visible on the photo), this dressing is so addictive, I found myself preparing it three days in a row. I discovered it accidentally, a couple of days ago, while leafing through Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop, one of the best written cookery books I know. As someone, who prepares either the classical French vinaigrette with mustard (sometimes garlic) or its vaguely Asian version, with soy sauce and sesame seeds, I was thrilled to discover this completely new way to dress the humble lettuce.

This salad has proved for me an ideal choice for the this time of the year, when a bright green, crisp, raw side-dish cheers me up and announces the imminent spring. Its creamy, intense dressing keeps it still in the rich, comforting food category. The addition of sesame oil might at first seem superfluous, but it has wonderfully increased the nutty fragrance, so I wouldn’t advise skipping it. The only big change I have allowed myself here was the addition of vinegar. The original recipe didn’t contain any acid ingredient and I desperately need some tanginess in my salads. In my defence I would like to emphasize I have used black Chinkiang vinegar, regularly appearing in Sichuanese recipes, such as Bang Bang Chicken, also found in the same book and also containing sesame paste.

TIP: If you don’t have dark Chinese sesame paste, try finding wholegrain sesame paste (I buy it in organic shops). Otherwise, any good light sesame paste will do. Black sesame paste might be too strong, but of course it depends on your preferences.

Soy sauce is not mentioned in the original recipe, only salt. I have used low-sodium soy sauce here because the dressing was too thick and I didn’t want to use more oil.

Preparation: 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

crisp salad leaves (tear the bigger ones into several pieces)

1 heaped tablespoon sesame paste

1 flat tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar (I think that malt vinegar would be the closest substitute here but do try finding Chinkiang vinegar which is unique)

pinch of sugar or syrup

1/6 teaspoon salt (or/and light soy sauce)

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

(toasted sesame seeds)

Place the dressing ingredients in a big bowl.

Mix them with a spoon until the sauce is homogenous.

Adjust the taste and add more oil/soy sauce/vinegar/sugar if the consistency is too thick.

Spread the dressing inside the bowl, place the salad leaves and delicately “wipe” the bowl’s interior with them.

Transfer the seasoned salad to a serving dish or bowl.

You can sprinkle it with toasted sesame seeds.




41 Replies to “Salad with Sesame Paste Dressing”

    1. Thank you very much, Azusa. I was delighted to discover this dressing and hope you will enjoy it too.

  1. Brzmi faktycznie ciekawie! Ja robie czasami taki pseudo-azjatycki vinaigrette z dodatkiem gomasio i sosu sojowego, ale wszystko ‘na oko’, wiec nie zawsze dokladnie tak samo smakuje 😉

    Milego tygodnia!

  2. I’m amazed. I actually have all the ingredients (kind of) on your list including the vinegar, though I’ve yet to break open the bottle. I have to try to remember what I intend to make with it. 🙂 I use tahini (regular sesame paste) for my hummus but I think I’ll try it in this recipe, anyway. Sounds like a tasty dressing.

    I just made a batch of pot stickers (pork and shrimp) and am resting up after the cooking and gorging phase. Still have to do the dishes but I have some time yet.

    1. Thanks a lot, A_Boleyn. It is quite strong in taste (this is why I said that it’s mainly for sesame paste fans), but if you like sesame paste, you might really love it. Of course any sesame paste will be ok here.

  3. I’ve never tried Chinese sesame paste… It’s now on my must try list. I love that blue bowl. What a gorgeous glaze! Is it one of the bowls that you purchased last week?

    1. Thank you so much, Tessa. I’m glad you like this bowl. Actually I’ve had it for two years now, but rarely photograph it because it’s quite big. My new bowls haven’t been photographed yet.

  4. Thank you for this recipe Sissi!!! I bought a tube of sesame paste a while back, use a teaspoon or 2 and it’s been sitting in the fridge ever since. I’m headed to the Asian market this week so I’ll be looking for some of that Chinkiang vinegar. I use sesame oil in a lot of things so I’m dying to taste a real sesame dressing. YUM!!!

    1. Thank you very much, MJ. I use my sesame paste rarely too… but I love the taste and would love to gather more recipes and use it more often (it’s also very healthy I think). I hope you will enjoy this dressing too.

  5. Sesame is a powerful ingredient! i love its flavor and now that we in Greece enter a big lent period before Easter many people use it to make sweets. The salad looks delicious!

    1. Thanks a lot, Katerina. I had no idea sesame was popular in Greece (I know so few things about Greek cuisine…).

  6. You are quite right about the intoxicating aroma of sesame, I know I would love this dressing without a doubt. Could I use tahini for the sesame paste? Even though it is made with the light sesame seeds? I’m heading down to China Town with Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails) next Monday and I will have to make my list of what to buy. Thanks for this very beautiful and fresh recipe (it’s very dark today and they are calling for freezing rain and snow this afternoon, not pretty at all).

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. I’m glad you are in need of fresh colours on the table, just like me. Of course you can use tahini! I was just lucky to find the dark sesame paste in my fridge, the one the author advises as a replacement (it’s wholegrain sesame paste, made with white grains but not hulled; it’s only slightly darker than the lightest sesame paste and the taste is a bit nuttier), but of course any tahini will be great.

  7. This is why you were blessed with a talent to write well, Sissi. You don’t have to show the dressing on the photo because you can describe it better than the photo. That’s what sets a good writer apart from the rest. You are very good, Sissi! I hope you are having a wonderful week! 🙂

    1. Ray, you are so kind… Thank you for such a huge compliment. I struggle a lot with my English, with the way I want to express my emotions or food experience, so I’m extremely flattered by your words.

  8. This does sound delightful Sissi. I mostly use a traditional vinaigrette like you with mustard so I imagine this switch up would be so refreshing not to mention tasty. I made a lime infused tahini at one point with scallops (I too appear to need my acid ;-)), but anyhow it was absolutely delicious and so different. I really like your method too. I tend to put all the fixing in the bowl and pour the dressing over top except in the case of Caesar salad where I take more care to caress the leaves in a pre-seasoned bowl like this. I’d like to try your method with this sesame dressing next time. I’m also intrigued by the sounds of the black Chinkiang vinegar which I’ve never had. Is it a milder vinegar Sissi? (I have white rice vinegar which I always considered fairly mild but am not certain how it compares to black). Your gorgeous green leaves look so inviting to me… and I’m with you, any whisper of spring is so very welcome!

    1. Thank you very much, Kelly. This was very surprising when I tasted the first leaf. The dressing is creamy and quite thick, hence my method to spread it all over the big bowl first. Otherwise I usually add the vinaigrette at the end and then combine with the leaves.
      Black Chinkiang vinegar is unusual… Strong and mild at the same time. It’s really black in colour, it has a deep and “round” taste at the same time. Malt vinegar is probably the closest thing, but it’s sweeter than Chinkiang vinegar… Difficult to describe, but I have had a huge bottle for several years now and I remember it was cheap so it’s worth trying. Rice vinegar is not as deep in flavour, but more violent in its acidity. Hmmm…. It’s really difficult to explain. Maybe even balsamic vinegar would be better here than the thin rice vinegar? It would somehow disrupt the thickness and depth of the flavours and fragrances. (Just my idea though).

  9. Never had chinese sesame paste only the “blond” or kind of “bland” arabian paste sold for small money at turkish grocery stores. Next time I will switch to the asia market.
    And I am going to buy one of these bowl shaped ceramic sesame grinders when I visit Japan, sesame is fantastic.

    1. Kiki, I buy the wholegrain sesame paste in organic shops here. They have several brands and kinds so I’m sure it’s similar in Germany. Apparently it’s a good substitute to the Sichuan sesame paste, so if you don’t find it, look in organic shops. The difference is small though: such a paste is a bit nuttier.
      Do you mean suribachi? Yes! I have bought it here two years ago, in a Japanese grocery shop and never regretted! It’s worth for sesame grains alone and it’s such an unusual, decorative kitchen gadget.

  10. Such a simple salad with a delicious dressing. I’m not sure I’ve seen toasted sesame paste around here, but will keep my eyes peeled for it 🙂

  11. Sesame paste sounds delicious, I love the flavor and the fragrance of sesame…must taste wonderful Sissi.
    Enjoy the rest of your week my dear 🙂

  12. Sesame seed usually ignored by me, and I take it out of cupboard only when some recipe calls for it. I think I need to change it and move it to a front row. Your salad is fresh, light, and incredibly inviting! 🙂

    1. Thank you very much, Marina. You can quickly toast sesame seeds and add them to a normal vinaigrette too. It will change it instantly!

  13. Hi Sissi, before I forget, seeing you mention Fuchsia Dunlop, whose name always makes me smile, I got a book for Christmas by someone called “Crescent Dragonwagon” (real name!) :D.

    Anyway – I must admit that sesame paste isn’t my favourite thing, and I certainly don’t love it with the same enthusiasm as you – opening the jar, stealing a spoonful… I must say “no thanks!”, however, I do enjoy it when it’s added to things… dressings and the like. I’m working through a jar of paste right now which is… hmm, how to describe it, different from previous jars I’ve had. The taste isn’t so pleasant (maybe the batch of sesame seeds was bad?) but once I’ve used it all I can make dressings with sesame paste once again 🙂

    Still – three days in a row, eh? You’ve piqued my interest – I will certainly try this soon! Never heard of that vinegar though – will look around in asian markets!

    1. I have always thought that Fuchsia was a nice name… Better than some other flower names I have read about in British media (I won’t mention which), but Crescent Dragonwagon sounds awesome!
      I have only recently discovered I loved sesame paste. I suppose it’s linked to my progressing crazy passion for sesame seeds and sesame oil. Are you sure your sesame paste isn’t rancid? I buy very good one in organic shop in France (it’s half-wholemeal, but next time I will buy wholemeal because I think it adds some deepness to the taste). They have such a huge choice! I always wonder why…
      You can buy this vinegar at frères Tang (I’m 100% sure because I see it here in every shop selling Chinese food). It’s cheap and a big bottles keeps for ages. It’s also very different from any vinegar I had. As I said it’s probably a bit close to the dark malt vinegar: strong in taste, but not very acid and not sweet either.

      1. Thanks Sissi – just to clarify something… when you say sesame paste, are you talking about tahini paste? I’m not sure if there’s a difference between the two, and if there is then I guess I’ve never tried sesame paste!

    1. Haha! I see it’s not only a Sichuan speciality 😉 Thanks for the link. I even didn’t know about your blog back then!

  14. I feel like sesame seeds was always in one of menus everyday growing up. It was a big part of Japanese food that we probably don’t even recognize it… like salt and pepper, almost. Sesame seed bread, crackers, dressing, sauce… just everywhere. I never realize it but I could be sesame obsessed too. LOL. So naturally, I love your dressing Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. I’m sure you would like this dressing too. It was so creamy and bursting with sesame flavours… I think my passion with sesame seeds started exactly when I started to cook Japanese! You are right: so many Japanese recipes contain sesame seeds and it’s so often sprinkled on dishes…

    1. It’s called “tahini” in Northern Africa, so maybe you have heard this name? Here it’s sold in organic (and of course Asian) shops.

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