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Asian-Inspired Sesame Miso Salad Dressing with Grains and Greens

A robust dressing like this Asian-inspired sesame miso salad dressing is the perfect spring staple for meal preppers.

A top-Down view of a green plate showcasing a delicious salad with cooked grains, vibrant asparagus spears, sliced sugar snap peas, and red radish coins, drizzled with a miso sesame dressing, on a white wood background.
If you mix up a batch of my basic salad dressings you can have a different salad at every meal. Chop up your favourite ingredients and toss it with this umami Asian-inspired sesame miso salad dressing. If you’re stuck for salad inspriration, you can get started with my grains and green salad.

What is miso?

Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and a type of fungus called koji (Aspergillus oryzae). It is a staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine and is widely used for its rich, savoury flavour and nutritional benefits.

Production Process

  • Ingredients: Miso typically consists of soybeans, salt, koji (a fermentation starter), and sometimes other grains like rice or barley.
  • Steeping and Cooking: Soybeans are soaked, cooked, and mashed to form a paste.
  • Koji Inoculation: Koji spores are mixed into the cooked soybeans, which initiate the fermentation process. Koji is a type of mould (Aspergillus oryzae) that breaks down the carbohydrates and proteins in the soybeans into simpler sugars and amino acids.
  • Fermentation: The mixture is left to ferment for a period from a few months to several years, depending on the desired flavour profile. During fermentation, lactic acid bacteria and other microorganisms contribute to the development of complex flavours.
  • Aging and Storage: After fermentation, the miso is aged for additional flavour development before being packaged and sold.

Varieties

  • Based on Ingredients: Miso can be categorised based on the primary ingredients used, such as soybean miso, rice miso, barley miso, or a combination of these.
  • Fermentation Duration: The length of fermentation determines the flavour and colour of miso. Shorter fermentation produces lighter, sweeter miso (shiro miso), while longer fermentation yields darker, more robust miso (aka miso).
  • Regional Variations: Different regions of Japan have their own traditional miso varieties, each with unique flavour profiles and uses. Some famous regional miso types include Hatcho miso from Aichi Prefecture and Sendai miso from Miyagi Prefecture.

Nutritional Content

Miso is not only valued for its flavour but also for its nutritional benefits:

  • Protein: It is a source of plant-based protein, making it suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets.
  • Probiotics: Miso is a fermented food, which means it contains beneficial probiotic bacteria that support gut health.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Miso is rich in vitamins (such as B vitamins) and minerals (such as manganese, zinc, and copper).
  • Low in Fat and Calories: Miso is relatively low in fat and calories, making it a healthy seasoning option when used in moderation.


 Culinary Uses

Miso is incredibly versatile and can be used in various dishes and culinary applications:

  • Soups: Miso soup is perhaps the most well-known dish made with miso. It typically contains dashi (a Japanese broth), miso paste, tofu, seaweed, and various vegetables.
  • Marinades and Sauces: Miso can be used as a marinade for meats, fish, or tofu, adding depth of flavour. It is also used as a base for sauces and dressings, adding richness and complexity.
  • Glazes: Miso glazes are popular for coating grilled or roasted vegetables, meats, and fish, caramelising during cooking and imparting a savoury-sweet flavour.
  • Stir-fries and Noodle Dishes: Miso can be added to stir-fries and noodle dishes to enhance their flavour profiles.
  • Dips and Spreads: Miso can be mixed with other ingredients to make dips and spreads for vegetables, crackers, or bread.

Storage and Shelf Life

  • Refrigeration: Once opened, miso should be stored in the refrigerator to slow down further fermentation and maintain its flavour.
  • Longevity: Properly stored miso can last for several months or even years due to its fermentation process. However, its flavour may change over time, becoming more intense and complex.

What is Fish Sauce?

Fish sauce is a savoury condiment commonly used in various cuisines, particularly in Southeast Asian cooking. It is made from fermented fish or shellfish, typically anchovies, combined with salt and water. The mixture undergoes a fermentation process, which can last anywhere from several months to a few years, resulting in a pungent, salty liquid with a rich umami flavour. Here’s a breakdown of the key components and the process of making fish sauce:
  • Fish: The primary ingredient in fish sauce is fish, usually small, oily fish like anchovies, sardines, or mackerel. In some cases, shellfish such as shrimp or crabs are also used. The fish are typically whole, including bones and guts, although sometimes only certain parts are used. The choice of fish can influence the flavour profile of the sauce.
  • Salt: Salt is a crucial component in the fermentation process. It seasons the fish and helps to preserve it by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. The salt concentration can vary depending on the desired flavour and the region where the sauce is made.
  • Water: Water is added to the mixture to create the right consistency and to facilitate the fermentation process. The amount of water used can also affect the intensity of the final flavour.
  • Fermentation: The fish, salt, and water are combined and left to ferment in large containers or barrels. During fermentation, naturally occurring enzymes and bacteria break down the proteins and fats in the fish, resulting in the formation of amino acids and other compounds that contribute to the sauce’s complex flavour profile. This process can take several months to a few years, depending on various factors such as temperature, humidity, and the desired flavour intensity.
  • Straining: Once fermentation is complete, the mixture is strained to remove solid particles and extract the liquid. The resulting liquid is the fish sauce, which ranges in colour from light amber to dark brown, depending on factors such as the type of fish used and the length of fermentation.

Fish sauce is prized for its intense umami flavour, which adds depth and complexity to dishes. It is used as a seasoning and flavour enhancer in a wide range of dishes, including soups, stir-fries, marinades, dipping sauces, and dressings.

In Southeast Asian cuisines, such as Thai, Vietnamese, and Filipino, fish sauce is a staple ingredient, often used in combination with other aromatics like garlic, chili peppers, and lime juice.

Despite its strong aroma and initial pungency, fish sauce mellows and blends seamlessly into dishes when used in appropriate quantities. It is important to note that while fish sauce is a valuable ingredient, individuals with seafood allergies should exercise caution when consuming it. Additionally, some commercial varieties of fish sauce may contain additives or preservatives, so it’s essential to check the ingredients list if you have dietary restrictions or preferences.

A green plate filled with a colorful grains and greens salad, photographed from a 45-degree angle to reveal layers of vegetables, cooked grains, and a miso sesame dressing, on a white wood background.

What is Toasted Sesame Oil?

Toasted sesame oil is a type of vegetable oil derived from sesame seeds. It is a common ingredient in many Asian cuisines, particularly in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cooking. Unlike regular sesame oil, which is made from raw sesame seeds, toasted sesame oil is made from sesame seeds that have been toasted or roasted before pressing to bring out their nutty flavour.

After toasting, the seeds are pressed to extract the oil. This extraction process may involve mechanical pressing or solvent extraction methods.
The resulting oil is rich in flavour, with a deep, nutty aroma and a darker colour than regular sesame oil.

Like regular sesame oil, toasted sesame oil is high in unsaturated fats, particularly monounsaturated fats. It also contains antioxidants such as sesamol and sesamin, which may have health benefits. Toasted sesame oil is rich in vitamin E and other nutrients, although its exact nutritional composition can vary depending on the production process and brand.

Just like other oils, toasted sesame oil should be stored in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight to prevent oxidation and rancidity. It can be refrigerated to extend its shelf life, although it may solidify at cold temperatures. Simply bring it back to room temperature before use.

What is Neutral Oil and Why Should I Use It?

Neutral oil is any type of cooking oil with a very mild flavour and aroma. These oils are typically extracted from seeds, nuts, or fruits and have undergone a refining process that removes most of their natural flavour compounds. As a result, neutral oils have a neutral or almost imperceptible taste, allowing the flavours of other ingredients in a dish to stand out.

Some common types of neutral oils used in cooking include:

  • Canola Oil: Derived from the seeds of the canola plant, canola oil is light in flavour and has a high smoke point, making it suitable for frying, baking, and salad dressings.
  • Grapeseed Oil: Extracted from the seeds of grapes, grapeseed oil has a very mild flavour and a high smoke point, making it versatile for cooking and baking.
  • Vegetable Oil: Vegetable oil is a generic term used to describe any oil derived from various plant sources, such as soybeans, corn, sunflowers, or safflowers. It typically has a neutral flavour and a high smoke point, making it suitable for various cooking methods.
  • Sunflower Oil: Made from sunflower seeds, it has a mild flavour and a relatively high smoke point, making it suitable for frying, baking, and salad dressings.

Neutral oils are preferred in cooking when you don’t want the oil to contribute significantly to the flavour of the dish. They serve as excellent carriers for other flavours and can be used in different culinary applications, including frying, sautéing, baking, salad dressings, and marinades. Additionally, their neutral flavour profile makes them suitable for dishes where the taste of the oil would be undesirable or overpowering.

Using a neutral oil in salad dressing is a common practice for several reasons, primarily centered around flavour, versatility, and stability.

  • Flavour: Neutral oils have a very mild flavour compared to oils like olive oil or sesame oil. When making salad dressings, you want the flavours of the other ingredients like vinegar, herbs, spices, and seasonings to shine through. Using a neutral oil allows these flavours to come forward without being overshadowed by the oil itself.
  • Versatility: Neutral oils are highly versatile and can be used in various recipes beyond salad dressings. They can be used for frying, sautéing, baking, and even as a base for sauces and marinades. This versatility makes neutral oils a staple in many kitchens, as they can be used in numerous culinary applications without imparting a strong flavor of their own.
  • Texture: Neutral oils typically have a light texture, which helps to create a smooth and creamy consistency in salad dressings. This texture allows the dressing to evenly coat the salad ingredients, ensuring that each bite is well-balanced and flavourful.
  • Stability: Neutral oils tend to have a higher smoke point than oils like olive oil, which means they can withstand higher temperatures before breaking down and becoming rancid. This makes them more stable for cooking and also helps to prolong the shelf life of homemade salad dressings.
  • Cost: Neutral oils are often more affordable than specialty oils like extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil. This makes them a cost-effective option for everyday use, especially when making large batches of salad dressing or cooking for a crowd.

Overall, using a neutral oil in salad dressing provides a blank canvas for other flavours to shine.

A silver bowl filled with ingredients for a grains and greens salad – cooked grains, blanched asparagus spears, sliced sugar snap peas, red radishes, chopped spring onions, and a miso sesame dressing on the side, ready to be tossed together.

Dress Code: Layering the Salad

As the weather begins to warm, we often crave lighter and more refreshing meals. Salads fit the bill perfectly, offering a satisfying yet light option that doesn’t weigh you down. They provide a contrast to the heavier, warming foods commonly consumed during the colder months.

Spring is a time when many fresh fruits and vegetables come into season. This abundance of fresh produce includes vibrant greens like lettuce and spinach, and various colourful vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and radishes. The availability of these fresh ingredients makes salads more affordable, appealing, and flavourful during spring.

Hearty, chewy grains like millet, bulgar wheat, wild rice, farro, spelt, and quinoa punch up the protein value of this salad. You can use any of these for the recipe. 

Make the most of your spring asparagus by maximising how much of it you use. Remove only about two centimetre off the woody base before blanching. Then, slice the stem to just before the tender tips. 

Next we amplify the satisfying crunch and vibrant colour of a fresh salad with raw sugar snap peas, spring onions, and radishes.

Add a protein like shredded chicken, turkey, smoked salmon, and smoked mackarel if you like, particularly if you’re enjoying this as a main.

Meal Prep at its Best

Fresh and homemade salad dressing is versatile and can last up to about three weeks. You can chop up all your salad ingredients in advance and store them in individual containers in the fridge. Grab what you like when you’re ready and mix it all up.

Loving this Big Flavour Asian-Inspired Sesame Miso Salad Dressing?

Did your salad get dressed for success? I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe! Please leave a comment and rate it to let us know how it turned out for you. And if you share a photo of your creation on Instagram, don’t forget to tag us with #theculinarycartel.  

If you want some more spring salad inspiration, try these:

Crunchy Chickpea and Kale Salad

Broccoli and Crispy Grain Salad

Vegan Cold Sesame Soba With Chilli & Cucumber

A top-down view of a green plate filled with a grains and greens salad featuring a variety of textures – fluffy grains, crisp vegetables, and a glistening miso sesame dressing, on a white wood background.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this Asian-inspired sesame miso salad dressing suitable for vegetarians and vegans?

Fish sauce is a key ingredient in this Asian-inspired sesame miso salad dressing. Therefore, it’s not suitable for vegetarians or vegans.

Are there any allergens I should look out for?

Please check the fish sauce you buy is gluten-free and ensure you use a gluten-free grain.

Please do not make this salad dressing if you’re allergic to shellfish or sesame seeds. 

Can I make the Asian-inspired sesame miso salad dressing ahead of time?

Yes! This salad dressing can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks. 

Can I use any other vegetables for the salad?

Absolutely! Use your favourite fresh, seasonal veggies for crunch and colour. 

Can I leave out the meat?

Yes, this grains and greens salad is filling and with the high-protein grains it’s a complete meal.

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A top-down view of a green plate filled with a grains and greens salad featuring a variety of textures – fluffy grains, crisp vegetables, and a glistening miso sesame dressing, on a white wood background.

Miso Sesame Dressing: A Grains & Greens Salad


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  • Author: Jess
  • Total Time: <30 mins

Description

If you mix up a batch of my basic salad dressings you can have a different salad at every meal. Chop up your favourite ingredients and toss it with this umami Asian-inspired miso salad dressing. If you’re stuck for salad inspiration, you can get started with my grains and green salad.


Ingredients

For the dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce

  • 2 tsp miso

  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

  • 1/3 cup white vinegar (adjust to taste for sharpness)

  • 1/4 cup neutral oil

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

  • Pinch of chili flakes

For the salad:

 

  • 1 heaped cup cooked grains (millet/bulgur/quinoa)

  • 1 x 160g bunch asparagus (alternatively use broccoli)

  • 1 bag (250g) sugar snap peas

  • 3 spring onions

  • 1 bunch radishes

  • 1 shallot

  • 1 lime

  • 1 red chili (optional)

  • 1 cup/ 300g cooked and shredded rotisserie chicken (or protein of choice)


Instructions

For the dressing:

  1. Combine the fish sauce and miso in a bowl and stir together until the miso has dissolved.

  2. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

  3. Will keep in the fridge for about 2-3 weeks. Serve tossed through the salad below, use it on diced cucumber for a refreshing cucumber salad, or toss through red cabbage, carrot and bean sprouts for a refreshing Asian-style slaw.

To make the Grains and Greens Salad:

 

  1. Thinly slice the shallot and red chili, if using. Place them into a small bowl, squeeze over the lime juice, and toss to combine. Set aside.

  2. To make the salad, wash the asparagus, radishes and sugar snap peas.

  3. Prep the asparagus by slicing off 2 cm from the base to remove the woody and fibrous part of the stem.

  4. Place a pan of water to boil, then blanch the asparagus for just over a minute, until al dente. Drop the asparagus into ice water to stop it cooking, then drain. Dice the asparagus spears into roughly 2 mm thick rounds, stopping short of the asparagus tips to leave them intact.

  5. Thinly slice the raw sugar snap peas and spring onions. Remove the greens from the radish bunch and slice the radishes thinly too.

  6. Add the grains to a large bowl with the shallot mixture, sugar snap peas, radishes, asparagus, and dressing, and toss to combine.

  7. Serve immediately.

  • Prep Time: 15 Mins
  • Cook Time: 5-10 Mins
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