If you’re the kind who can only ever tolerate the thought of veggies when drenched in a rich, creamy salad dressing (no judgment) but are sick of the ubiquitous caesar, ranch, or thousand island-type stuff, this could be for you: a Spicy Cheese dressing from Japanese mayonnaise company Kewpie.

It caught our interest for its unusualness; we’ve never seen anything like it, at least within the realm of salad dressings. But with the words “spicy” and “cheese”, you’d wonder if it were just a gussied-up way to sell nacho cheese sauce—the Tex-mex leaning sort you’d use as a dip or drizzle with tortilla chips.

Kewpie Spicy Cheese is great with anything crisp and refreshing—slices of cucumbers, for example, or a bunch of iceberg or romaine lettuce.

This turns out to be different, however: runny in consistency (similar to the “Roasted Sesame” variant from the same brand), it pours generously and coats your salad greens lightly, if not too lightly, in that it barely clings onto lettuce and instead drips down into a watery puddle. As you’ll see though, this works to its advantage—you won’t need a huge amount as it packs a powerful punch of flavor.

You first get a part-tangy, part-sweet profile with subtle notes of tomato and garlic amidst the creaminess of mayonnaise in the backdrop—we’re reminded of thousand-island dressing, made more umami and with added fruitiness from the chili. We can barely taste the cheese, but the profile you get is tasty and familiar (something about the combination reminds us of a sweeter, creamier gochujang). The real kicker, however, is in the sudden, sharp pierce of heat that eventually makes it to the tongue. It doesn’t show itself off immediately, instead silently operating behind the said initial flavor profile—but when it does erupt, it does so powerfully that the unwitting might be unable to do much else than to let out a whimper. It’s a good kind of pain though, begging to be balanced with the refreshing crunch of veggies and the dressing’s opening mayo-y sweetness before the cycle repeats again. This is the kind of complex sensation that keeps you going back for more bites, and that keeps you on your toes as it continually unfolds.

We’re pleasantly surprised: Kewpie’s Spicy Cheese dressing brings one heck of a spicy, one-of-a-kind flavor rollercoaster to the table. It might not have gone the direction we’d thought it would, tasting little of cheese and more of fiery chili, but it offers a compelling argument for spicy salads—something not enough people think of doing, but really should. If your tongue is up for the challenge, give this dressing a go.

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