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Onion Salad with Miso Dressing

Onion Salad with Miso Dressing

Learn how to make a delicious Japanese-style onion salad, aemono, featuring red miso dressing, vinegar, sugar, and garlic. This small plate dish is perfect with sake at the beginning of a meal. Try variations such as different types of miso for the dressing. Includes helpful tips for preparing the onions and julienned shiso. Check out this article for more about aemono and Japanese cooking.

A Japanese government representative here in New York handed me an interesting pamphlet called "A Guide to Japanese Ingredients," listing food producers and their ingredients, as well as a few recipes. One dish in particular caught my eye, for onion salad. The restaurant Yakitori Totto features it and it's fantastic. It's a kind of aemono, "dressed things," which, according to "Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art," is Japanese-style salad of several raw or cooked and cooled ingredients tossed with a dressing. Typical aemono dressings are vinegar-based and thickened with pureed tofu, ground sesame or miso. Just like the one in the recipe below. This dish makes a tasty small plate to accompany sake at the beginning of a meal. (But I would lose the raw garlic; too overpowering I think.)

Onion and Shiso Salad with Miso Dressing


  • 2 medium white or red onions
  • 10 shiso leaves


  • 2 tablespoons red miso
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons water


  • Katsuo bushi (dried, shaved bonito)


  1. Prepare the Onions: Thinly slice the onions and soak them in a bowl of cold water for ten minutes. After soaking, take the onions out in batches, place them in a kitchen towel, and wring out the liquid. This method reduces the onions' bitterness and helps them last longer.

  2. Prepare the Shiso: Stack the shiso leaves, roll them up, and thinly slice to julienne. This method is efficient for slicing herbs and produces uniform strips.

  3. Make the Dressing: In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of red miso, 2 teaspoons of vinegar, 2 teaspoons of sugar, ½ teaspoon of minced garlic, and 3 tablespoons of water. Whisk until the ingredients are well blended. Feel free to experiment with different types of miso or miso mixtures to adjust the flavor.

  4. Assemble the Salad: Arrange the wrung-out onion slices on a plate. Sprinkle the julienned shiso leaves over the onions. Pour the prepared dressing evenly over the top.

  5. Garnish and Serve: Garnish the salad with katsuo bushi before serving. The dried, shaved bonito adds a savory umami flavor that complements the salad's fresh and tangy taste.

Techniques and Their Purposes:

  • Soaking and Wringing Onions: Soaking onions in cold water and then wringing out the moisture reduces their sharpness and bitterness, making them more palatable and extending their freshness. This technique is particularly useful for raw preparations where the onion's potent flavor might otherwise overpower the dish.

  • Julienning Shiso Leaves: Rolling and slicing the shiso leaves not only makes for an attractive presentation but also evenly distributes the herb's fresh, aromatic flavor throughout the salad.