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.
- Bring a very large pot full of water to a boil and prepare a bowl of ice water.
- Cook the spinach in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and spinach, rinse briefly with cool water, and then dump the spinach into the ice water.
- Retrieve the spinach by the pink roots, and squeeze out as much water as you can.
- Chop the roots off and then cut the spinach into 2-inch (5 cm) long pieces.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the dashi, soy sauce and sugar together. Add the spinach to the bowl and toss well to distribute the sauce evenly.
- In a small food processor or blender, add the cooled toasted sesame seeds and salt and process until the sesame seeds are ground and start to look like wet sand.
- Dump the ground sesame seeds in with the spinach and mix to evenly distribute.