Looking for a light, healthy salad that’s bursting with flavor? Look no further than ika salad, a staple in Japanese cuisine. This simple Ika salad makes an incredible appetizer or side dish.
The star ingredient is ika, which refers to squid or calamari. When thinly sliced and paired with crunchy vegetables, tangy dressing, and bright garnishes, the tender squid becomes an absolute delight.
As a Japanophile and home cook, I’ve enjoyed my share of ika salad both in restaurants and made fresh at home. The sweet, briny flavor of squid complements the veggies and dressing perfectly. I’ll share my secret to flawless, tender squid as well as my go-to ika salad recipe.
Why Ika Salad?
Squid gets a bad rap for being chewy, but it’s actually a very delicate ingredient that can turn out extremely tender. The trick is not to overcook it. When treated right, squid has a wonderfully sweet, mild taste similar to scallops.
It has a soft texture that pairs well with crunchier components like cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, and lettuce. These vegetables also provide a nice color contrast to showcase the pretty pink and white squid.
To prevent the ika from getting rubbery, I quickly blanch or sauté it for just 1-2 minutes to cook through. Then it’s ready to be chilled, sliced, and tossed into the salad.
Read on to learn how easy this crowd-pleasing ika salad is to whip up at home. Get ready for a burst of delicious umami flavor in every bite!
Refreshing Ika Salad – A Japanese ClassicCourse: CookbookCuisine: JapaneseDifficulty: Medium
A light vinaigrette dressing really allows the ika to shine rather than masking its natural ocean-fresh flavor. My homemade dressing has a refreshing balance of sweet, salty, tart, and spicy. Here are the key components I use:
Things That Required
- Creating Flavorful Ika Salad Dressing
Rice vinegar – The mild acidity of rice vinegar brightens up the salad without being too harsh.
Soy sauce – A splash of soy sauce adds an umami, salty flavor that enhances the brininess of the ika.
Sugar – Just a bit of sugar balances out the acidity and draws out the sweetness of the vegetables.
Sesame oil – Nutty sesame oil gives the dressing richness and aromatic flavor.
Spices – I like fresh grated ginger and a pinch of red pepper flakes for a spicy kick.
1 lb squid, cleaned and tentacles removed
1⁄2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1⁄2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
- For the dressing:
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1⁄4 tsp red pepper flakes
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add squid tubes and blanch for 60-90 seconds until translucent. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Slice tubes into thin rings.
- In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients until well combined.
- In a large bowl, combine sliced squid, cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, and lettuce.
- Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss gently until ingredients are evenly coated.
- Enjoy this refreshing ika salad chilled or at room temperature. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and extra pepper flakes if desired.
- Simply whisk these ingredients together, drizzle over the salad, and you have a flavorsome dressing that perfectly coats each component. Time to get cooking!
Tips for Making Perfect Ika Salad
- Blanch squid briefly to keep it tender. Overcooking will make it rubbery.
- Slice veggies thin or julienne for a nice mix of textures.
- Balancing the sweet vinegar dressing and umami flavors is key.
- Make the dressing first so flavors can meld while you prep.
- Chill the finished salad at least 2 hours so the squid can absorb flavors.
The sweet tender squid paired with the crunchy veggies and bright dressing makes this salad positively addicting. It’s endlessly customizable, so feel free to add ingredients like edamame, bell pepper, onions, shredded carrot, coriander, and more.
I hope you’ll give this Japanese classic a try soon. Let me know if you have any other favorite ika salad recipes! It’s the perfect light, healthy meal for warm weather.