This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to what people in the food industry are obsessed with eating, drinking, and buying right now.
I first bought this sesame dressing because of my reverence for the Kewpie brand. (They put MSG in mayo! Respect.) The mottled, miso-hued liquid initially looked sugary-sweet—like something from Newman’s Own—but where was the flaccid plastic bottle I love-hate?! This one came in glass, and it called to me from the shelves of the Japanese supermarket I was in. Seeing “Kewpie” in all caps on the label was all I needed to gingerly plop it into my shopping basket. It was a guarantee of delicious things ahead, an invitation into the Kewpie lifestyle.
Now, several months into living that #Kewpielife, I have a minimum of two bottles in the fridge at all times.
It is nectar of the umami gods. It’s super savory, thanks to soy sauce and sesame seeds (and, surprisingly, no MSG), balanced with zingy vinegar and brown sugar. But my favorite thing about this salad dressing is that it’s got body. It’s not one of those thin, salty, mouth-puckering vinaigrettes; it’s cloudlike and creamy like toum. It makes eating my vegetables feel less virtuous and more indulgent.
A generous drizzle of this sweet-savory liquid gold gets me out of my lunch rut, perking up soggy leftover lentils and my thousandth serving of roasted broccoli. This dressing has replaced ranch for all my raw veg needs (healthier snacks!) and will make its debut at picnics in the park very soon. More often than not my husband will bring out the bottle for whatever we’re eating, from pan-seared salmon to mille-feuille nabe.
At BA, we tend to gravitate toward hyperbole when we talk about things we like, but that’s the only way to talk about this sesame dressing. On the Kewpie site there are 2,458 (and counting) glowing reviews. Some have compared this salad dressing to The Empire Strikes Back (“you can’t imagine life without it”). Some reviewers are actually just desperate customers looking for a fix because their Costco stopped selling giant jugs of it (to which I want to respond, “You can buy it right here, on Amazon.”).
There’s just something about this tangy-sweet, sesame-seed-flecked dressing that thousands of us can’t shake off. It brings a little joy wherever it goes, and you notice it when it’s gone, which it never will be in my house, because of my aforementioned two-bottle rule.
In the meantime I’ll keep scouring the shelves of my Japanese supermarket, looking for the next Kewpie condiment to add to my collection.