Hourensou no goma-ae (菠薐草の胡麻和え) literally translates to “spinach dressed with sesame seeds”. If that sounds simple, that’s because it is. With only a handful of other ingredients, it’s a quick Japanese salad that’s served as a side for breakfast, lunch or dinner. While the nutty sesame and verdant spinach are the dominant flavors, goma-ae is also smoky, subtly sweet and full of umami, thanks to the dashi-based dressing.
We all know that spinach is loaded with vitamins A and C, but by pairing it with sesame seeds, this dish is a more complete source of nutrients, replete with protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamin B-6. Best of all, it will keep refrigerated for a few days, so you can make a big batch during the weekend and enjoy your goma-ae during the week.
Although I use toasted sesame seeds, I prefer toasting them again just before using them. Like spices, the flavor of sesame seeds degrades as they sit on a grocery store shelf, by giving them a quick toast, it resurrects some of that lost nutty goodness.
For the dashi, it may be tempting to simply rehydrate the granulated variety, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s like the difference between using bouillon and homemade chicken stock, and since dashi is the main flavor of the dressing, it will make a noticeable difference. Check out my tips for making dashi from scratch and use the leftovers for making miso soup.
While spinach is the most common vegetable for making goma-ae, it’s also made with green bean, carrots, or almost any leafy green.
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