Recipe Sleuth: Masa 14’s Hijiki Salad

A reader recently wrote to Recipe Sleuth asking for some help making the seaweed salad at Masa 14, the Latin/Asian restaurant in DC’s Logan Circle. “It seems pretty basic,” she said, “but I can’t quite get it right at home.” Although the salad is fairly easy to prepare, the list of ingredients is lengthy, and a few of them—hijiki seaweed, the hard Mexican brown sugar called piloncillo—will probably be hard to find in your average grocery store. Here, the kitchen reveals its secrets.

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Masa 14’s Hijiki Salad

Serves 4

Prepare the seaweed:

4 ounces dried hijiki seaweed, soaked overnight in water, then drained (available at most Asian markets; buy the thin strands rather than the chopped variety)
¼ cup sake (use a drinking sake, not an unfiltered cooking sake)
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
½ cup sugar

Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Drain the remaining liquid, and chill the seaweed until you’re ready to make the salad. If you’re not using it immediately, it can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Make the piloncillo/sesame dressing (makes 2 cups):

4 ounces piloncillo (you can substitute the same amount of brown sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon of molasses)
1 cup rice vinegar
¼ cup sesame oil
2½ ounces white sesame seeds
½ cup diced yellow onion
¼ cup ginger, peeled and chopped
2⁄3 cup soy sauce
1 cup canola oil

Break the piloncillo into small pieces by placing the hard sugar between two clean dish towels and pounding them with a meat tenderizer or clean hammer. Combine the sugar and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.

Place the sesame oil and sesame seeds in a blender and process until smooth (add some of the 2⁄3 cup soy sauce if the blade has trouble spinning). Add the onion, ginger, and the soy sauce. Process again until smooth, then add the sugar/vinegar mixture. Blend on high to combine, then reduce the speed to low and slowly add the canola oil to emulsify the dressing. Remove the dressing from the blender and use immediately. Any leftover dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Assemble the salad:

2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup shredded chayote
1 cup hijiki seaweed, cooked as above
½ cup sliced scallions
1 cup peeled and shredded jicama
1 cup sesame dressing
Daikon sprouts for garnish
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Before preparing the salad, wash the carrots and chayote under cold water and pat dry. Place the hijiki and scallions in a food processor and pulse until shredded. Transfer the seaweed to a large mixing bowl and toss with the carrots, chayote, jicama, and sesame dressing. Divide onto 4 salad plates and garnish with daikon sprouts and toasted sesame seeds.

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