Unlike most Western salads, this recipe involves a bit of cooking. Not much work, really, nor is length of time a serious issue. But the sesame seeds need to be toasted and the shiitake must be cooked until it acquires a texture that is a perfect balance of tenderness and chewiness before the rest of the ingredients can be tossed in.
Does it have to be shiitake? Can another mushroom variety be substituted? Absolutely! Shimeji or eryngii would be good substitutes. Just don’t use canned mushrooms because they have been cooked to the max and won’t be able to soak up the dressing anymore.
And the tomatoes? Are regular tomatoes okay to use? Sure! If your tomatoes contain a lot of seeds, however, it might be a good idea to scoop out and discard the watery center before cutting the flesh into bite-size pieces. That’s to prevent the salad from turning watery as it sits on the dining table.
Shiitake and cherry tomato salad
For the Vietnamese dressing
- 2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- ¼ teaspoon finely sliced chili
- ¼ teaspoon minced garlic
- ⅛ teaspoon grated ginger
- Cut off and discard the stems of the shiitake.
- Wipe the shiitake caps with a paper towel then use a sharp knife to make shallow slashes on top (this will help the mushrooms soak up more of the dressing later). Halve the mushrooms if they are on the large side.
- Peel and finely slice the shallot.
- Halve the cherry tomatoes.
- In an oil free frying pan, toast the sesame seeds until lightly browned and nutty in aroma. Set aside to cool.
- Drizzle the sesame oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Spread the shiitake on the bottom of the oiled pan and sear, about 30 seconds per side.
- Pour about a quarter cup of water over the mushrooms, turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook the mushrooms until the water has dried out.
- Transfer the mushrooms to a shallow bowl.
- Mix together all the ingredients for the dressing. Drizzle over the mushrooms. Toss well. Cover the bowl, pop into the fridge and let the mushrooms marinate in the dressing for at least 30 minutes.
- Take the mushrooms out the fridge, add the cherry tomatoes and sliced shallot, and toss.
- To serve, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and, optionally, torn fresh cilantro.