Tofu Salad – Response to SOS and Mishima’s Dressing

grilled tofu salad
When the thought of dinner comes to mind, I do the SOS, aka Six O’clock Scramble. I’m racking my brain for ideas, scanning the refrigerator and pantry for possibilities, deciding on something, realizing I don’t have a key ingredient, changing my mind, deciding on something else, realizing I don’t have a proper substitution for a missing minor ingredient, changing my mind four more times for this, that, and the other until at the end of the SOS, I am right back where I started.


It happens every time.


Normally, Tofu Salad is a half-block of plain, firm tofu cut into slices and tossed on top of vegetables. Every once in a while I get creative and add…nothing. I never get creative with Tofu Salad. How many different ways are there to make a tofu salad?!?!

Not many. About as creative as you can get is changing the dressing. Ranch dressing, however, does not work with tofu salad.

I am in possession of the recipe for the Creamy Sesame Dressing that made Mishima’s Tofu Salad the standard back in the day. When I first ate the salad in the restaurant, the dressing was the first of its kind that I had ever tasted – creamy, tangy, hinted with sesame. It had a power over me something like what I would imagine an Asian ranch, not the flavor, but the fact that I wanted to dip every dippable piece of food in it. I have the recipe, but I never use it. I made the dressing once, and it tasted great, but the thought of it basically being a bowl of lightly beige-tinted fat makes me gag. I am not afraid of fat. I just don’t like the mix of peanut butter and mayonnaise, which is the foundation of the dressing. I cannot imagine ever eating a sandwich made of peanut butter and mayonnaise, so there is no way that whisking them together with soy sauce makes it any better.

Then again, I used to eat sandwiches made of Iceberg lettuce squashed between two slices of Wonder White smeared with Miracle Whip and sprinkled with sugar.

*shudders* Miracle Whip. Thank god for changing tastes.

No, I prefer a spicy Sesame Ginger vinaigrette on my salad that is not much unlike the dressing on my *gasp!* Chinese Chicken Salad. In fact, I might even say that I make a large quantity of that same dressing and use it on everything until it runs out, just to help with the SOS.

Okay, let me come clean. I don’t really do the SOS. That implies that daily, I am under some sort of domestic pressure to get a delicious dinner for a family of five on the table by the time everyone gets home from karate lessons, softball games, tutoring, and a long day of work at the office.

Domestic? Come on. Domestic!

Besides, my kids would play soccer. Softball is for sissies.

Seared Tofu Salad and Mishima’s Sesame Tofu Salad Dressing Recipe

Use any greens for the salad base. Obviously, my first choice would be Iceberg lettuce, but clearly, the pressures of food pornography and nutrition have gotten the better of me.

I prefer to toss greens with the dressing (which is the same one I used for Chinese Chicken Salad), rather than drizzling it over each individual salad. However, if you happen to be fond of the creamy sesame version of dressing for tofu salad, Mishima’s recipe follows below.

One block of tofu can make enough for four starter size salads, or one Sarah-sized salad.

Seared Tofu Salad Recipe

Slice medium firm tofu into ½-¾” thick slices. Place several sheets of paper towels on a plate, lay the slices in a single layer on the paper towels, then lay another set of several sheets of paper towels on the tofu. Put another plate on top of the whoel stack, and press down with a weight (I use regular sized cans of broth or vegetables). Let sit for about 30 minutes to drain some of the water.

Heat 2-3 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over a medium flame. Place two slices of drained tofu in the skillet. The water in the tofu might cause a little bit of a splatter when it hits the hot oil, so be careful. Fry the tofu slices for about 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned, then place on dry paper towels to drain the oil. Let cool slightly before placing on salad greens.

Garnish with lightly toasted sesame seeds and julienned nori.

Mishima’s Tofu Salad Dressing

As printed in the Los Angeles Times, then subsequently clipped and saved by moi about 10 years ago; yeah, back when I actually read hard copies of newspapers.

Whisk together:
2 T. sesame seed paste (or creamy peanut butter)
2/3 c. mayonnaise
¼ c. rice vinegar
¼ c. sugar
2 T sesame seasoning mix (optional)
1½ t. grated ginger
1 T. soysauce
1½ t. mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 T. water

Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

** a year ago today, my red velvet cupcakes were little ladies in red **

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 FoodZealot October 3, 2006 at 3:26 am

Thanks for reposting the recipe, Sarah! I’ve enjoyed that very salad at Mishima many times. I don’t understand your aversion to the peanut butter and mayo combo though – isn’t PB, banana, bacon, and mayo the King’s favorite sando? Oh, nevermind…

Sesame is gooder anyway. I also like the way the katsuo-boshi shavings wave around like they’re underwater fans in the ocean currents.

I’m going to try it your way, too.


2 Natasha July 20, 2009 at 7:25 pm

I’ve had the Mishima (does that place still exist, btw?) tofu salad about a hundred times and never in a million would I have imagined there was mayonaise or peanut butter involved. Ew, but it was so good. Thanks for the inspiration to make an old fave with a new twist.


3 Sarah J. Gim July 20, 2009 at 7:50 pm

FoodZealot: they “whoever “they” may be) try to tell us Elvis OD’d on some sort of “drug” but the reality is, I think he may have tried to snort bacon fat and choked.

Natasha: (un?)fortunately, the only Mishima left in LA, it seems, is the one downtown in Little Tokyo: I used to go to the one on Sawtelle, but it has since turned into whoknowswhatnow


4 Syrie July 20, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Salad is always my answer as well. This looks fabulous. Love the dressing. As for miracle whip, I’m lucky I’ve never had the misfortune of trying it!


5 Sarah J. Gim July 21, 2009 at 2:57 am

Syrie: Miracle Whip scares me. Especially since I have read that women use it as a home remedy to exfoliate their skin. Anything that can melt dead skin off your face should not be considered food.


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