It’s been awhile since I’ve done a food post here at Mr. Tako Escapes, but that doesn’t mean food isn’t ultra-important here at Chez Tako! Behind the scenes I’m making delicious meals on a budget that hovers around $500/month for four people.
(Anyone who follows me on Twitter can attest to the fact I’m posting delicious food photos on a regular basis)
I’m still a big believer in controlling the way we purchase, prepare, and consume food. It’s an important way to build wealth.
Doing things “right” when it comes to food has a big impact on our monthly budget. You’ll probably think I’m joking when I say that making the right decisions around food easily led to one million dollars of our multi-million dollar net worth.
I’m not joking. How we interact with food is that important.
So what does this have to do with dressing?
The Salad Factor
Well, for starters, in the Tako household we eat a lot of salads — Out of a 7 day week we eat some form of salad 3-4 nights per week.
Why so many salads?
Well, if you’ve ever shopped in a grocery store (this might be foreign territory for some readers), you’ll notice that vegetables are cheap. I mean really cheap. Frequently less than $1 per pound in the summer when produce is fresh and on-sale.
Furthermore if you have an economic garden, you can grow many salad ingredients for nearly free.
Salads are easily one of the cheapest and healthiest foods you can put on the table… if you do it right.
Under most conditions, they’ll be far cheaper than anything you’ll find in the meat department — A good steak easily costs $5-12/pound. Double that if you go organic.
While we’re not big meat eaters at casa Tako, simple logic tells us that eating a diet with a greater number of calories from the plant category is going to cost considerably less than one which depends heavily on high-cost meats.
Sounds easy right? — Just focus your inner bugs bunny and feast your way to millions!
Unfortunately, this extremely simple money saving tip often falls by the wayside in just a few days.
There could be several reasons why:
- Culture. North Americans eat a very meat heavy diet. Eventually they’ll miss all that meat heavy “comfort food”.
- Taste. Plain old vegetables don’t taste terribly fantastic by themselves.
- Boredom. Most people aren’t very creative when it comes to preparing salads.
For those families that do try to eat frequent salads, they’ll often fall into the trap of dumping gobs of over-priced Ranch dressing all over it…
Smothering the salad in the white-sludge and killing the beneficial money-saving effects a wonderful pile of vegetables can provide.
So what’s my solution?
Make the best damn salad dressing on earth for a fraction of the price it costs in a store!
That’s how you win the frugal salad game day after day — When it tastes so damn good that you want to eat salads more!
The Best Salad Dressing On Earth (Probably)
Grandmothers the world over have been making salad dressing since time began, but in my experience these homemade salad dressings often pale in comparison to the store bought varieties.
Sorry Grandma, you need a better recipe.
In our travels around the world, Mrs. Tako and I encountered a number of very good salad dressings (this was before kids). Most of them were good, but ultimately forgettable — just another variant of Ranch or Italian dressing.
This changed on one of our early trips to Japan — The Japanese love salads (nearly every meal has a salad of some sort over there) and a single salad dressing really stuck out.
First of all, it was different — It wasn’t exactly an Italian dressing, nor was it a Ranch. Not a blue cheese either. It was something distinctly asian … a fusion of East and West. It also had these chunks of vegetables in it… almost like the salad was inside the dressing.
Strange! Bizzare… but really delicious too! So delicious that nearly every Japanese home we’ve ever visited has a bottle of this stuff on-hand. They put it on salads, tofu, vegetables, spaghetti, seafood, even in rice dishes… it’s everywhere!
What’s this incredible dressing I speak so highly of?
It’s a fantastic Japanese salad dressing, and you can occasionally find it in a well stocked local Asian grocery store.
I’ve also been able to find it on Amazon. One problem though — it’s overly expensive. Stupid expensive in fact. (For those crazy prices, who would buy it?)
Thankfully, financial independence means I have plenty of free time on my hands to experiment with recipes.
Without further ado, I give you my
shameless copy “personal recreation” of this classic Japanese salad dressing…
Mr. Tako’s “Asian Style” Shoyu Dressing
First, let’s kick things off with the list of ingredients:
- 1 cup of canola oil (240 cc)
- 1/2 cup of rice vinegar (120 cc)
- 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1/2 large onion
- 1/2 medium sized carrot
- 1.1 oz of black olives (32 grams, or half a small can)
- 1/2 tablespoon of salt
- 4 teaspoons of brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes (I like korean chili flakes)
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
It looks complicated, but I promise you it’s not. There’s nothing unusual or expensive here either.
The dressing is composed of basic ingredients you probably already have in your pantry… except for maybe the rice vinegar. We always have some on-hand, but feel free to substitute with other vinegars that you have in the pantry.
This recipe makes about 2 cups of salad dressing, and costs around $1.00-$1.50. (Easily half of what you might pay for salad dressing in the store.)
Steps To Prepare
Prep time for this dressing is very quick — maybe 10-15 minutes maximum.
First, you’ll to want to very finely grate the onion and carrot. It’s important that the vegetable particles be very small – roughly 1-2 millimeters in size or smaller.
I just use a hand grater to grate the vegetables. It’s the most time consuming step, but only takes a couple minutes. (Faster than I can dig the food processor out of the closet and fewer dishes to wash too!)
If you’re not into hand-grating, use a food processor or blender. Smaller pieces are better. The secret is very finely ground vegetable chunks.
My grated veggies look something like this:
Next, you’ll want to finely chop the olives. If you’re using cheap canned olives like I do, drain the liquid first. The chunks can be larger in size than the onion and carrot — 3 to 5 millimeters is a perfect size.
You can buy the olives pre-chopped, but ‘meh!’ it only takes two seconds to break down olives.
After that, it’s just a matter of combining the various ingredients together at the flavor party. I always start with the wet ingredients (oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce) and then add the dry ingredients (spices, veggies) after.
Mix thoroughly, cover, and chill before serving. This gives the ingredients a little time to blend and I think it tastes a little better when it’s cold.
The Final Product
OK OK, I’ll be the first to admit that this an unconventional salad dressing. It’s got soy sauce in it for god’s sake! And vegetables! Chunks!
(I might be breaking some fundamental law of the universe here too… be careful!)
But unconventional is where I often find the sweet-spot is in life. I’m all about finding that inner weirdo.
Watching Mrs. Tako’s eyes light up when she takes a bite of a wonderful salad I’ve made is completely worth the 10-15 minutes it takes to make this dressing.
It’s really that good. And that little frugal high-five Mrs. Tako and I share after another frugal-awesome dinner? Yeah, we know we’re killing it. A salad like this barely costs a dollar and the whole family loves it.
Yes, even the kids eat the green stuff!
Paul over at Assetbasedlife recently asked me how I get the kids to eat green-stuff…. Well Paul, we’ve never had a problem.
It’s possible the dressing might have something to do with it. 😉
Enjoy the recipe folks! I know I do!