In Japanese this dish is called shira ae, or ‘white dressing’. It’s a type of aemono, meaning ‘dressed thing’. Other types of aemono include goma ae (sesame seed dressing), miso ae (miso dressing), karashi ae (Japanese mustard dressing) and sumiso ae (vinegar and miso dressing). Sunomono, or ‘vinegared thing’, is category of vinegar-based dressings.
Uncooked tofu doesn’t keep well in heat, so if making this dressing in the summer, boil the tofu first (about 30 seconds to 1 minute on the stove, or heat in the microwave for 30 seconds). Before mixing the dressing with the cooked ingredients, make sure they’ve cooled to room temperature.
We suggest buying unhulled, unroasted sesame seeds, and both roasting and grinding them yourself – it’s fun, tastes great, and also gives your kitchen a lovely aroma! However if you’re short on time or don’t have a suribachi, mortar and pestle, or food processor, here are some shortcuts. Number 1: buy roasted unhulled sesame seeds, and skip the roasting step. Number 2: buy sesame paste and skip both the roasting and grinding (this will probably affect the finished taste, texture and colour of the dressing).
- 100 g firm tofu
- 2 tbsp unhulled sesame seeds
- 60 g white miso paste
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp sugar
- Remove tofu from package after draining liquid out, then wrap the tofu in some paper towel. Place it on a plate and lay another plate on top to press out the excess water. Leave for 30 minutes at least.
- Roast the sesame seeds over medium heat in a dry frying pan until they brown and start popping. Take care not to burn them!
- Grind the sesame seeds in a suribachi (a mortar and pestle or food processor can also work) until they become powdery. Add the miso, mirin and sugar, and blend well.
- Squeeze the tofu gently until it’s as firm as your earlobe, then add to the ingredients in the suribachi. Add a pinch of salt if the mix isn’t salty enough yet, and continue grinding until creamy.