Goma-ae: Dainty Carrot and Green Bean Salad
Here’s another of those “chopstick vacations” I wrote about last week – tiny little side dishes designed not to stand on their own but, instead, to contrast with the other dishes you put on the table. Goma-ae is an example of how you can make such a dish with just four ingredients: a tasty and refreshing break from any big meal.
Why is this a good idea? Because when you make a seriously Japanese meal, it’s easy to end up with a lot of dishes that more or less belong to the same family of tastes, often marked out by the use of soy sauce. When cooking for guests, you want to surprise their palates now and then with a refreshing dish that tastes like nothing else on the table. For those occasions, this mayonnaise-based salad is just the ticket.
I know, I know: mayonnaise sounds like it shouldn’t come anywhere near a Japanese kitchen. You’d be surprised, though: Japanese people love mayo, and by mayo they mean one specific brand, which has all but cornered the Japanese market. Kewpie has been selling mayonnaise in Japan since 1925, and its distinctive formulation just tastes like home to us. It’s a little bit embarrassing to say, but a lot of Japanese people abroad prefer Kewpie mayo to French mayonnaise…and, well, the less said about American-style mayo, the better.
If you can’t find kewpie where you live – or don’t want to pay the extortionate prices Asian stores typically charge for it – just squeeze a little bit of extra lime into regular mayonnaise, and you get something close.
Ingredients (for four)
- Green beans – about 30 of them
- Carrots – One large one
- Mayonnaise – Kewpie brand, if possible – two tablespoons
- Sesame seeds – two tablespoons
- Salt – to taste
- Snap off ends of green beans, boil for about 3 minutes
- Drain green beans and rinse with cold water
- Slice longitudinally, into thin strips
- Peel the carrots, cut them into fine little sticks, boil them in salted water for about 4 minutes
- Drain the carrots, rinse with cold water
- Make sure to get rid of all excess moisture in the carrots, shaking them thoroughly in a strainer
- Mix together the green beans, carrots, mayo and sesame seeds
- Taste and add salt if needed
As usual with a “chopstick vacation”, you should think of this more as a way to accentuate the taste of the other dishes you’re making than as a dish in itself. That’s why goma-ae is always served in very small portions.