I’m here with a short dispatch—I finally cracked the code (for me!) on carrot-ginger dressing, the mainstay of Japanese restaurants everywhere. Ages ago, when I worked in midtown, there was a small sushi restaurant that made the very best I’ve tried—so perfectly balanced in its acidity and sweetness—I couldn’t get enough. I think the restaurant has long been gone, and with it, the secret of their magical dressing. But I can’t get its flavor out of my mind.
For years, I’ve been making this carrot-ginger dressing from goop, but I never loved it. I wanted to love it. Everyone made it. Everyone blogged it. Everyone loved it. Except for me. I liked it, and by that I mean, I thought it was fine, but it felt to me so close to being perfect, but so elusive, that it frustrated me to no end. It’s like the no-knead bread problem—everyone loved it, except for me.
Still, the lure of the dressing kept calling, and I kept making it over and over, hoping my palate would change. But it didn’t. And a few nights ago, I decided to swap out part of rice vinegar and use mirin instead. And that was it. The unpleasant edge of acidity was suddenly balanced out by the sweetness of mirin and with a smaller amount of sesame oil—I find the flavor too overpowering for such delicately flavored dressing—the balance of flavors is perfect to my palate. Everyone, of course, is different, and you might want to amp up the acidity, or amp the amount of sesame flavor. But to me, this dressing is finally perfect.
The only question nagging me is why didn’t I think of it earlier?
Often, I don’t have shallots on hand, so I swap in a piece of red onion, and it works marvelously. If you don’t have grapeseed oil, another neutral oil, such as avocado, will be great here. For smaller quantities (such as the yield below), I prefer to use my mini-food processor as it’s much easier to get all of the dressing out. If you make a larger batch, the blender is better and faster. Lastly, sometimes your dressing will be looser than other times—it all depends on how much water is in your vegetables—so, if it’s looking too thick, add another tablespoon of water to get it to the consistency you like. Play around until it works best for you.
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons roughly chopped peeled fresh ginger
1½ tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1½ tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon sweet white miso
2 teaspoons roasted sesame seed oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) grapeseed oil
In a blender or a mini food processor, pulse the carrot, shallot, and ginger until finely chopped.
Scrape down the sides, add the vinegar, mirin, miso, and sesame seed oil and blend together until mostly smooth (I like it to have a tiny bit of texture). While the motor is going, slowly drizzle in the oil and 2 tablespoons water.
Serve with a salad or vegetables of your choosing. I like a mix of lettuces, carrots, avocado, chickpeas, cucumbers, onion, tomato. I also like to serve it with steamed vegetables, such as broccoli, as a dip.
makes about 1 cup (240 ml)