Japanese Salad, with Ginger or Wafu (Sesame) Dressing & Optional Tako Su Topping

Contains:  Soy, added sugar.  Is:  Vegetarian/vegan, if you omit the optional octopus (served off to the side to begin with).  Gluten-free if you source your soy / tamari sauce accordingly.  Or, if you switch to coconut aminos (in which case, please add less sugar!)  

This dish is also suitable for Good Friday for those who do not eat meat on this day.  (According to several religious practices, seafood — which would include octopus, is not considered meat by those dietary rules.)  Use gluten-free tamari / soy sauce if gluten-free – I prefer San-J’s low sodium version.

Japanese salad, greens, octopus, taco su

Main salad to the left, juvenile octopus to the right. Things did not get assembled with added dressing until at the pot luck, and there people did what they liked!

I belong to a foodie group that puts on various themed dinners, to which we come pot lucking. This time we were to pick a place we’d like to visit, and if possible, wear something part of that culture’s dress.  We only had to let the hostess know what general category of food our dish was going to be – so that not everyone brought desserts or whatever.

Japanese salad, ginger dressing, wafu, sesame dressing

Salad before the cabbage or the lettuce forced their way in!

I had a Japanese kimono, so the item to wear was easy.  And yes, I’d love to visit Japan (and Korea, and Vietnam, and Thailand….).  Decided to opt to something that didn’t need re-heating upon arrival, so I made a salad with two types of dressing.  As a side to the salad (people could ignore it if vegetarian or if octopus engaged their “squeee” factor) I had some of that in a tako su marinate, which they optionally could add to their salad.

I didn’t get to take photos as the food was served – kimonos don’t have pockets.  So I apologize that all the photos were taken here at home before everything got put together at our dinner event.

The inspiration (and the essential recipes) for all the dressings, and for the tako su, came from the site, Just One Cookbook.  For the vegetarian salad itself, I just let my mind run rampant with appropriate ingredients.  Check the link below for a variety of ideas.  Normally when I order a salad at a Japanese restaurant, it doesn’t include a lot of ingredients beyond iceberg  lettuce, a little cucumber, and maybe some hot house tomato.  Fortunately, grape tomatoes in the off season are far more tasty than any full-grown tomato at this time of year.

15 Easy Japanese Salad Recipes

The sesame dressing I simply tripled but otherwise followed the recipe, Japanese Sesame (Wafu) Dressing.  Okay, as per usual, I undercut the amount of added sugar (and as always I used coconut palm sugar).

Japanese salad, wafu, sesame dressing

A lovely dressing I’d never had the opportunity to try before. Shake before serving.

The ginger dressing I doubled, and substituted in ginger paste for an actual ginger knob, but otherwise followed the recipe, Carrot Ginger Dressing, with the sugar proviso above.

Japanese salad, carrot ginger salad dressing

I crammed the ginger carrot salad dressing into this Mason jar. YUMMIES.

The tako su, since it was going to be set aside, and added to the salad proper by those who wished to eat it, was made without the vegetables, but I used the tako su dressing at the recipe, here..  Since I had quite the hike to the pot luck, my octopus marinated for about 3 hours, and much of what remained managed to wick out of the bowl due to unfortunate tilting when on the road.

Japanese salad, tako su, marinate

Even if most of that marinate wicked off during transit… enough was absorbed into the octopus for flavor.

Prep Time:  Plan on about 40 minutes as you run around a bit.
Cook Time:  If you do the octopus option, it will depend.  I used two juvenile octopi – 25 minutes.  Otherwise no cook time at all. 
Rest Time:  Marinate the optional cooked octopus about 30 min.
Serves:  I’d guess 8 people but at a pot luck it was more than ample for nearly 20.
Cuisine:  Japanese.
Leftovers?: Salad wilts after about 24 hours. Dressings will last around 10 days.  Tako Su should last four.

Japanese Salad

For the Salad Proper:

Be flexible.   My salad included, and I’m not specifying amounts:

  • Crispy savoy cabbage
  • Boston lettuce (alternatively, iceberg or romaine)
  • English cucumber, sliced into thin disks.  (If you have to use regular cukes, do peel them and remove most of the seeds. And no playing with that half-peeled lazy thang….)
  • Grape tomatoes, sliced into halves
  • Daikon radish, sliced into thin slivers
  • Regular red radish, sliced into thin disks
  • Carrots (I used thin true-baby carrots, not those unpleasant “baby” carrots which are just the tough cores of large adult carrots)  Chop in half.  If you can’t find them – this was the first time I ever saw them! –  get regular carrots, peel and grate them.
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Scallions/green onions, chopped thinly.
  • I didn’t use this but had planned on it:  Wakame seaweed flakes, reconstituted in water and then soaked in a ratio of 1:1 water and rice vinegar, about 15 minutes for the whole process.  (Don’t attempt to reconstitute in that mix, as they won’t reconstitute properly.)  Dry lightly, then use.
  • I also didn’t use avocado, because I feared it would brown in transit.  But this could be wonderful in your salad! Slice thin and always buy more than you need, as you can’t always guarantee that what’s inside is good…
  • You could even toss in some peeled and quartered hard boiled eggs, but there was going to be plenty of other protein at our gathering.

Fill a 4 quart / 3.8 liter bowl about 3/4ths full with any combination of the above, heavy on the greens.  Toss all the above together.   Allow guests or family to serve themselves and choose their own dressings.

For the Wafu Sesame Salad Dressing:  I really like Nami’s addition of onion to this.  So, yes, I’m doing it.  Wafu Salad Dressing

  •  9 tablespoons avocado (or other neutral) oil
  • 3 tablespoon finely grated onion, along with any juices generated.
  • 9 tablespoons low sodium, gluten-free soy sauce/tamari/coconut aminos
  • 9 tablespoons rice vinegar (the plain stuff, not containing sugar or salt)
  • 8 tablespoons sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds.

Mix together.  I put this all in a Mason jar, so that it could be vigorously shaken (not stirred???? Where’s James Bond when you need him???) by people as they dispensed it on their salads.

For the Ginger Carrot Dressing: Here it is!  Ginger Carrot Dressing

  • 3.6 ounces / 100 grams of carrot.  
  • 2 heaping tablespoon minced ginger (or ginger paste).
  • About 2 ounces / 2 heaping tablespoons chopped onion.  
  • 1/2 cup / 120 mL rice vinegar (the plain stuff, not containing sugar or salt)
  • 4 tablespoons avocado or other neutral oil (not olive).
  • 1.75 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons white miso
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sesame oil
  • Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste.  

I used little mini-carrots (NOT “baby” carrots), and since I couldn’t find the mini food processor, I cut these guys up even smaller, as I had to use the Stick blender.

At any rate, put everything in your mini processor or in whatever container you will use your, say, Smart Stick, to process with.  Do divided doses if you have to  (space reasons in your processor or such).

Decant and store for up to two weeks.  Use at will or whim.

For the Optional Octopus/Tako Su:  Please, unless you know that all your guests will want the amazing octopus, serve it as an adjunct to the side.  (More for those who’d love it, right?)  Or eliminate it entirely.  And, here’s the link.

BUT, in case you don’t eliminate using it:

  • About 1/3rd pound /150 grams cooked octopus
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1.25 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon low sodium gluten free soy sauce / tamari / coconut aminos
  • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds  
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt  

Cut the octopus into very thin slices.

Mix the rest up, pour over the octopus, and marinate under refrigeration for half an hour to 3 hours, stirring once or twice.

When served, people can add to their salads as they choose.

Japanese, salad, recipe, tako su

A package of juvenile octopus, which I cooked for this recipe. I used the two larger octopi.

NOTE:  I cooked this octopus via directions on the package.  If you get a full-sized octopus, you’ll need to cook it longer.  The thinner the slices when you cut it, the more tender.  For full-sized, just use the tentacles.


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About goatsandgreens

The foodie me: Low/no gluten, low sugars, lots of ethnic variety of foods. Seafood, offal, veggies. Farmers' markets. Cooking from scratch, and largely local. The "future" me: I've now moved to my new home in rural western Massachusetts. I am raising chickens (for meat and for eggs) and planning for guinea fowl, Shetland sheep, and probably goats and/or alpaca. Possibly feeder pigs. Raising veggies and going solar.
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12 Responses to Japanese Salad, with Ginger or Wafu (Sesame) Dressing & Optional Tako Su Topping

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  3. Love that ginger carrot dressing, so refreshing! I usually finish the husband’s salad whenever we eat at a Japanese restaurant 😀

  4. Emily says:

    I love healthy, delicious salads like this one – perfect for a hot summer meal! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Irene says:

    great story and recipes!

  6. I pinned and can’t wait to make the ginger carrot dressing. I have bought it in jars but I’m sure it tastes much better fresh. Thank you for sharing!

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