Arugula, Sweet Potato, and Walnut Salad With Dashi "Vinaigrette" Recipe (2024)

Why It Works

  • The smoky, salty, savory flavor of shoyu-dashi adds an entirely different, and delicious, dimension to salads compared to a classic lemon juice– or vinegar-based dressing.
  • Toasting the walnuts in the microwave is quick and easy.

If you had asked me even a couple of months ago if there was a universal rule to salads, I'd have told you that they all need avinaigrette. A vinaigrette, I would have continued, is a sauce that, in the simplest sense, is an emulsion of a fat (usually oil) and an acid (usually vinegar or lemon juice). And, I would have argued that one of the keys to any good vinaigrette, and therefore any good salad, is to perfectly balance the ratio of acid to fat so that the salad tastes both rich and bright without being greasy or sour.

Thing is, I don't believe that least, not entirely. In particular, I'm no longer convinced that a salad needs an acid at all. Now, before anyone starts thinking that I'm talking about replacing vinaigrettes with creamy dressings, like blue cheese or ranch, let me be clear that that's not what I mean at all. A creamy dressing works much the same way as a vinaigrette, balancing tart, acidic ingredients, and rich, fatty ones (so, for the sake of this argument, I'm considering them a subset of vinaigrettes). No, I meanno acid at all.

The Versatility of Shoyu-Dashi

I first had the idea to drop the acid after Japanese food expert andcookbook authorNancy Singleton Hachisugifted me a bottle ofshoyu-dashifrom one of her favorite sources in Japan. It's a simple condiment that blends soy sauce (shoyu) with dashi, the Japanese stock most often made from kombu seaweed and smoked dried bonito. The combination of the two makes a deeply savory sauce that is one of the most basic building blocks of Japanese cuisine.

It's often used to dress vegetables. It's the base for dipping sauces for tempura or shabu-shabu. If you order soba, they'll come served in a shoyu-dashi broth, as will udon. It's used to poach fish or to braise meats and vegetables. It's served with fried tofu inizakayas(with a cold beer, of course). It's in the marinade for carpaccio-like beeftatakiand used to flavor the beef ingyudon(beef rice bowl). You get the idea: This is versatile stuff.

When I first opened the bottle Nancy gave me, I started by following a more traditional approach, spooning the shoyu-dashi directly onto some steamed winter squash. Then I moved on to drizzling it on salad greens, which is a common thing to do in Japan. But then I began to wonder why I couldn't extend even further to a vinaigrette-style construction, blending the shoyu-dashi with oil and tossing it with my salad ingredients. My first attempt was a revelation, a green watercress salad that ranked as one of the most delicious I've made, with nary a hint of acidity in it. I'm half ready to declare shoyu-dashi a more versatile condiment than mustard or ketchup.

I've been trying to think about why shoyu-dashi works so well in place of the acid part of a classic vinaigrette. One explanation I have is that an oil-dressed salad isn't unlike other dishes with a fatty component, like, say, steak. Some of the most popular condiments for steak follow the logic of a vinaigrette, providing a tart counterpoint to the rich steak; Worcestershire andchimichurriare a couple of examples. But others double down on that richness instead of trying to contrast it, like a compound butter that melts on top of the beef. So my thinking is that when it comes to salads, a tart vinaigrette is one very good and logical option, but it isn't the only one—going for deep, savory base notes instead can be very interesting.

Theories aside, what's most important is that it works, and it works well. And you don't need a bottle of fancy Japanese stuff gifted to you to do it yourself. Shoyu-dashi is incredibly easy to make at home.

Making Shoyu-Dashi

Arugula, Sweet Potato, and Walnut Salad With Dashi "Vinaigrette" Recipe (1)

The first step is to combine the kombu with cold water and bring it to just shy of a simmer, extracting its glutamic acid and mild marine flavor into the broth. Then the kombu is plucked out (you can save it for a second-run dashi, chop it up and eat it, or toss it if you're feeling lazy), and the bonito flakes are added off the heat.

The bonito is left to steep for 10 minutes, enough time to pull the fish's rich inosinic acid, along with its smoky scent, into the dashi. Once strained, the dashi is ready—it really is that quick and easy. Take note: Glutamic and inosinic acids, while chemically acids, don't taste tart. Instead, they add those satisfying, savory umami flavors.

Then you blend the dashi with soy sauce to make the shoyu-dashi. From there, it's a simple matter of making a dressing by blending the shoyu-dashi with oil and tossing it on salad ingredients.

You'll notice when you look at the recipe that you have to make more dashi and shoyu-dashi than the actual recipe requires—that's just because making smaller amounts becomes impractical. You can use the extra dashi for all sorts of things, stirring in some miso for a quickmiso soupor just drinking the dashi as a warming broth. The small amount of leftover shoyu-dashi, meanwhile, is good with raw or cooked vegetables; spooned on some poached shrimp, a poached egg, or cold tofu; or used as a dipping broth for warm or chilled soba orsomennoodles.

In this recipe, I toss the dressing with earthy sweet potatoes, bitter arugula, and crushed toasted walnuts. It's a hearty, satisfying salad, and one that proves, without a doubt, that you can safely drop the acid for the trip of a lifetime...aflavortrip.

Arugula, Sweet Potato, and Walnut Salad With Dashi "Vinaigrette" Recipe (2)

February 2016

Recipe Details

Arugula, Sweet Potato, and Walnut Salad With Dashi "Vinaigrette" Recipe

Prep5 mins

Cook20 mins

Active10 mins

Total25 mins

Serves4 servings


  • 1 pound (500g) sweet potatoes in jackets, poked all over with a fork

  • 1 cup walnuthalves (3 ounces; 90g), crumbled

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml)extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

  • 2 cups (475ml) coldwater

  • 1/4 ounce dried kombu (8g; about one 5- by 2-inch piece)

  • 1/4 ounce dried bonito flakes (8g; 1 loosely packed cup)

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml)soy sauce

  • 4 cups arugula(2 1/2 ounces; 70g)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Microwave sweet potatoes until tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. If desired, peel and discard jackets. Cut into medium cubes and allow to cool to room temperature.

  2. Meanwhile, on a microwave-safe plate, drizzle walnuts with just enough olive oil to lightly coat, toss well, and arrange in a single even layer. Microwave in 1-minute intervals at high power, tossing walnuts between intervals, until toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool.

  3. In a medium saucepan, combine water with kombu and cook over medium heat until just shy of a simmer. Remove and discard kombu using tongs. Remove from heat, add bonito flakes, and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain dashi into a heatproof container through a fine-mesh strainer. Discard bonito flakes. (See note.)

    Arugula, Sweet Potato, and Walnut Salad With Dashi "Vinaigrette" Recipe (3)

  4. In a small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup dashi together with soy sauce (this is now shoyu-dashi). Reserve remaining dashi for another use. (It's good just as a warming broth, or can be used to make a quick miso soup.)

    Arugula, Sweet Potato, and Walnut Salad With Dashi "Vinaigrette" Recipe (4)

  5. In a clean small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons shoyu-dashi with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Reserve remaining shoyu-dashi for another use. (It's delicious as a broth for poached eggs, steamed fish, or simple steamed vegetables.)

  6. In a salad bowl, combine sweet potato, walnuts, and arugula. Dress with shoyu-dashi/oil mixture, tossing well to coat. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Special Equipment

Fine-mesh strainer


Kombu and bonito flakes can be saved and used to make a second, weaker dashi that forms a great base for miso soup.

Read More

  • Dashi 101: A Guide to the Umami-Rich Japanese Stock
  • How to Stock a Japanese Pantry
  • Plumbing the Depths of Miso Soup
Arugula, Sweet Potato, and Walnut Salad With Dashi "Vinaigrette" Recipe (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Reed Wilderman

Last Updated:

Views: 6008

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (72 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Reed Wilderman

Birthday: 1992-06-14

Address: 998 Estell Village, Lake Oscarberg, SD 48713-6877

Phone: +21813267449721

Job: Technology Engineer

Hobby: Swimming, Do it yourself, Beekeeping, Lapidary, Cosplaying, Hiking, Graffiti

Introduction: My name is Reed Wilderman, I am a faithful, bright, lucky, adventurous, lively, rich, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.