The first time I had a Nicoise Salad was five years ago in Oman. I remember the experience so clearly because not only was the scenery so beautiful – I was sitting on a patio, looking out to the blue water filled with yachts with large rocky cliffs in the distance – but the combination of flavours in the salad was something I have never experienced before. Why oh why had it taken me so long to try this salad?! This salad was not your typical salad, it was bold, it was it was hearty, it was meaty, and it had so many textures. This salad was quick to become my go-to salad.
If you were to ask me what my favourite winter dish was growing up, I would definitely say nikujaga (肉じゃが). Nikujaga (meat and potatoes in Japanese) is a homey dish made of simmered potatoes, onion, shirataki, and surprisingly just a bit of meat for flavour. Just like most Japanese simmered dishes (nimono 煮物) the ingredients are simmered in a sweetened broth flavoured with dashi, sake, and soy sauce. The taste of nikujaga varies from household to household, but the flavours are never forgotten by those who grew up with their mom’s cooking. Typically as people get older, they reminisce about their mother’s cooking, which is why dishes like this are considered ofukuro no aji (おふくろの味) meaning the taste of mother’s home cooking. I personally do this all the time, I tell Kevin about all the amazing food my mom would make, he usually responds with “You talk about all this delicious food, yet you never make me any of it” (insert sad puppy face). Hey what can I say, sometimes I get hung up with our weekly meal prep and I forget to fit in yummy dishes like this.