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Onion volcanoes! Flying shrimp! Acrobatic spatulas!
Behold, just some of the wonders of a
show meal at Benihana—which, when the premiere location opened on New York's West 56th Street in 1964, was the U.S.'s first teppanyaki restaurant.
But today I am focusing neither on the high stakes performance nor the historical significance and family drama. Instead, I'm thinking about salad dressing—the only dressing that could get the twelve-year-old me, an attendee of many a squealing Benihana birthday party, to lick my plate of watery lettuce clean.
The sharply-sweet ginger dressing took the greens from pre-meal throwaway—just a box to check off, really—to my favorite part of the experience. (Yes, better than the ignited onion stupa.)
There are a plenty of copycat recipes on the web (this one from Todd Wilbur, the king of cracking "top secret recipes," calls for ketchup, peanut oil, minced celery, and soy sauce). But the version that I like these days might be less of an exact replica of Benihana's and a closer relative to the dressings that often accompany salads at U.S. sushi restaurants.
Slightly adapted from the blog Just One Cookbook, it's made with carrots, onion, miso, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and, of course, plenty of ginger, which blend into something like a saltier, more savory version of your favorite reviving juice.
Do know that this dressing is very gingery—an intensity balanced by the blandness of crunchy leaves. Start on the low end of the recommendation and scale up to suit your tastes.
And think beyond salad: This would make a great dipping sauce for fresh spring rolls, poached chicken, or sautéed shrimp. Just don't try catapulting them from your pan and into the mouth of your dinner companions, okay?
- 1 carrot (65 grams), roughly chopped
- 1/2 small onion (35 grams)
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger, to taste
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
- 2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon (scant) sugar
- 2 teaspoons white or yellow miso
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- Salt, to taste
Any restaurant recipes you're dying to recreate at home? Tell us in the comments.