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Japanese Home Cooking MAR-APR 2022

Sweet Sesame Greens

Horensō Goma-ae

This magical Japanese way to serve up spinach reduces an entire day’s worth of virtuous greens to a few delicious bites that will leave your family asking if there’s more. Yes, it’s that good. (And it’s fast! Five ingredients, fifteen minutes.)

Japanese sweet spinach with sesame seeds horenso goma-ae


Serves 4

8 oz. (227g) baby spinach leaves

1/4 cup (35g) toasted sesame seeds

1 t. (5g) sugar

2 t. (20ml) soy sauce

3 T. (45ml) dashi broth (can be made with hot water and instant dashi granules*)

Put the sesame seeds in a blender/immersion blender or food processor and grind them for 5-10 seconds, until they look like this:

Blender with ground sesame seeds in it

Add the sugar, soy sauce and dashi broth. Blend until it forms a rustic-looking sauce, like this:

Goma-ae sesame sauce

Toss spinach leaves one big handful at a time into a pot of boiling salted water. Stir for fifteen seconds (I just count to myself, like: one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand…) then scoop the leaves out (I use a sieve) and dump them in a bowl of cold water while you cook the rest.

Spinach blanching in boiling water

This cools them off and stops them from cooking any more.

Spinach cooling in bowl of cold water

When all the spinach is cooked, pour it into a colandar and squeeze out all the liquid you can. Really squeeze it, don’t be shy. (I use my hands.)

Blanched spinach in colander

Put it back in the bowl and pour the sauce over it. Mix well. (I use my hands for this too.)

Spinach mixed with goma-ae sesame sauce in bowl

Divide between four small plates and sprinkle a few toasted sesame seeds on top for garnish. You don’t have to do anything fancy—it looks pretty good even if you just scoop it onto the plate. But if you want it to look more guest-worthy…

Mound of Japanese spinach with sesame sauce on plate

…put a round cookie cutter on the plate and pack the spinach mixture into it. When it feels pretty firm, lift off the cookie cutter.

Round cookie cutter on plate

How much spinach do you need?

This is what 12 oz. (340g) looks like in the bag, and after it’s cooked. As you can see, it shrinks A LOT. When I make this, I buy about 2 oz. (57g) per person.

Bag of raw spinach next to plate with same amount of cooked spinach on it

You can skip arm day at the gym if you make this the traditional way by grinding the sesame seeds in a Japanese suribachi mortar with a wooden pestle, but it’s much faster and easier to whip the goma-ae sauce up in a blender/immersion blender or a food processor.

Immersion blender and suribachi Japanese morter and pestle on wooden table

*To make dashi broth, dissove 1 t. (5g) instant dashi granules in 1 cup (236ml) of boiling water.

Jar of Hondashi instant dashi broth granules

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