Want to know how you’ll devour a whole platter of lettuce by yourself? Just drizzle it with an intense, Creamy Sesame Sauce. This is a copycat of a lettuce salad at an authentic Sichuan restaurant called “Spicy Joint” in Sydney that I’m completely mad for!
Welcome to Day 8 of the inaugural Holiday Salad Marathon, where I’m sharing 30 salads in a row through to Christmas Eve – just for something different to the usual sugar-loaded baking countdowns!!
I’ve got a rather unique salad for you today! A SICHUAN one (but no, it’s not spicy, it’s to cool your mouth between fiery mains!):
Creamy Sesame Sauce Lettuce Salad
We (the RecipeTin Family) believe this salad and sauce originates from around the Sichuan and Chongqing areas of China (if any readers can confirm that’d be great!) It’s popped up on the menus of some of our favourite Sydney Sichuan restaurants like Spicy Joint (it’s actually a popular chain restaurant from China, so you know it’s legit!), and Chongqing Street Noodle.
And ever since we’ve tried it, we’ve been dying to replicate the recipe because it is insanely addictive.
A little salty, a little sweet, and packed with intense sesame flavour, this sauce – and it’s really more of a sauce than a dressing in consistency – punches well, well, well above its weight for such a short list of basic ingredients. One mouthful and you’ll be forever hooked!
You need this sauce in your life. Trust me.
Creamy Sesame Sauce (Chinese/Sichuan)
Here’s what you need to make the sauce:
Chinese Sesame Paste – This is ground sesame paste, and essentially a Chinese version of tahini. It’s a common pantry staple in Sichuan cuisine (eg. used in Dan Dan Noodles). It’s darker in colour and has a deeper, more intense flavour because the seeds are roasted, unlike tahini. You’ll find it in Asian stores, and it’s even cheaper than tahini! Sub: Tahini, of course. TIP: Like tahini, the oil separates from the paste when it’s sitting in the pantry, so give it a good stir before using. I find a chopstick or butter knife works better than a spoon.
Peanut butter (smooth) – Natural, pure peanut butter is best here, for the most intense peanut flavour. But any regular smooth peanut butter spread will do just fine. It’s more a background player in this sauce; sesame is the dominant flavour;
Sesame oil – Toasted, which is brown and has a stronger sesame flavour, rather than untoasted (which is yellow, lighter sesame flavour);
Oyster sauce – For a hit of umami, this is what gives the sauce depth of flavour despite the few ingredients called for!
Dark soy – For darkening the sauce a tad and adding a touch of seasoning;
Sugar and salt – This sauce should have a specific sweet and savoury flavour profile. It’s quite intense because the idea is that you use small amounts drizzled over the lettuce (too much and the salad will be overly rich and cloying);
Water – For thinning the sauce.
As for the making part? Just mix together until it comes together, and use water to adjust so it becomes “drizzle-able”.
My sauce looks split … help!
When it first comes together and is thick, before you add enough water, it can look like it’s split. However, the thinner it gets, the more it comes together and the more stable it is. But this sauce does split again if it’s sitting around for a long time. Just give it a good mix to make it creamy again.
How to serve this Creamy Sesame Sauce
I have been known to eat an entire platter of raw vegetables, just dipped in the sauce. It’s just ridiculously good!
And you don’t even need to dunk vegetables in completely – though out of the gate, I’m always greedy and I use way too much. It’s intensely flavoured and quite rich, so actually, you only need a bit for each piece.
Which brings me to the proper way to serve this sauce – drizzled over a Chinese Lettuce Salad. Normally this means simply piling a platter with crispy small lettuce leaves. Traditionally the lettuce used are the leaves of a Chinese vegetable called youmaicai (yo-MAI-TSAI), also known as celtuce in English. It has good crispy crunch and is slightly nutty, and goes exceptionally well with this dressing.
I used baby cos (aka Romaine) lettuce as I feel it has similar texture, ie. crispy, juicy and crunchy. Full size cos or iceberg lettuce cut or torn will also work fine.
One final important note: The quantity of sauce this recipe makes is twice the amount you’ll need for the quantity of lettuce listed. Use the rest as a dip like suggested, or just keep it for another salad (it will last a long time in the fridge, as it contains no fresh ingredients).
Try it. Especially if you’ve made my Dan Dan Noodles, you’ll already have the Chinese Sesame Paste! – Nagi x
What is the Holiday Salad Marathon?
This is my inaugural Christmas recipe countdown where I am sharing 30 salad recipes in a row until Christmas Eve – something completely different to people’s usual baking countdowns!
These salads are in addition to my regular 3 new recipes a week. Because aren’t you bored of the usual tomato-cucumber-lettuce garden salad routine??
Click here to see all the Holiday Salad Marathon recipes to date, or sign up for instant updates and you’ll receive a free email alert whenever I publish a new salad! 🙂
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Spicy Joint’s Creamy Sesame Sauce with Lettuce Salad
Creamy Sesame Sauce:
- 2 tbsp Chinese sesame paste (Note 1)
- 1/2 tbsp peanut butter (Note 2)
- 1/2 tsp white sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce (Note 3)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil , toasted (ie brown, not yellow)
- 1/4 tsp dark soy sauce (Note 4)
- 3-4 tbsp water (or more)
- 2 baby cos lettuce or for authentic, equivalent amount of Chinese lettuce (celtuce) , trimmed (Note 5 for subs)
- sesame seeds for garnish (black, ideally for the colour, but white or roasted are fine)
- Separate, wash, trim and dry lettuce leaves. Slice any large ones in half vertically. Leave smaller leaves whole.
- Sauce: Mix all ingredients except water together in a bowl. Start by mixing in 3 tbsp water, a tablespoon at a time. Let the sauce sit for one minute. If the sauce starts to split, or the sauce is too thick, add another tablespoon of water. Keep doing this until you have a pourable / drizzle-able sauce that is emulsified (ie. oil is not separated).
- Arrange leaves on platter, drizzle around half of the dressing over or so. You will NOT need all the dressing; keep the rest for something else. Garnish with sesame seeds. (Alternative: just use to dip in raw veg. It is SO good!)
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