Horenso no Gomaae is a delicious side dish made up of blanched spinach mixed with ground sesame seeds and flavoured with Japanese condiments. It's tasty, addictive and perfect for bento boxes too!
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What is gomaae?
Gomaae (胡麻和え) is a kind of salad made with sesame seeds (often ground) dressed with sugar, soy sauce and other seasonings. Also known as Goma yogoshi (ごまよごし）
Spinach (or horenso ほうれん草 in Japanese) is the most popular ingredient, but other vegetables or fish are sometimes used:
- Green beans
- Canola flower
- Red snapper
- Horse mackerel...etc
Japanese style restaurants in other countries sometimes use peanuts instead of sesame seeds, in which case called peanuts-ae (ピーナッツあえ）
For a bit of language reference, ae (和え) generally means "mix" but in the culinary context, it's considered as a set phrase meaning "A mixing ingredients with seasonings or other substances that add flavour."
How to prepare the spinach
At least in Japan, spinach is one of the vegetables that needs to be washed and prepared thoroughly. They usually come covered with mud and sand (it's not a bad thing) and if you don't prep properly, some gravel might escape into your dish.
Furthermore, spinach needs to be quickly boiled in hot water in this recipe and it's important not to overcook.
Here, I will explain how to wash spinach and boil it perfectly.
Cut off the ends
First, we cut off the end to separate each leafy stem. If you don't cut it beforehand, it's likely that some mud will be left between stems.
Wash the mud and sand off the leaves
Fill up a big bowl with cold water and rub the mud and sand off. They tend to hide in small areas, so I recommend to use your fingers to clean all the nooks and crannies.
After washing, you can probably feel the gravel at the bottom of water bowl. I'm always surprised how much sand would be my meal if I didn't wash them thoroughly.
Cut them into 3 parts and tie them up
Once your spinach is washed, cut them into 3 parts:
- Top (leaf)
The reason why I cut them into 3 parts is each part needs to be boiled for a different amount of time. For example, the stem bottom of the stem (3) is thicker and needs a lot longer than leaf, whereas the leaf is thin and only needs to be blanched for 30 seconds.
Tying them up with cooking string (food safe) will also be useful during the boiling process.
Boil the stems for 1 minute
So first, boil enough water to cover the spinach in a pot and add 1 tsp salt. Then add the bottom cut (stem) in and cook for 1 minute.
Add the middle part and boil for 45 seconds
Then we add the middle part and continue to boil for 45 seconds together with stems.
Add the leaves and blanch for 30 seconds
Finally, add the leaves and continue to boil everything together for another 30 seconds.
Cool quickly in fresh cold water
Once the last 30 seconds are over, drain the water and immediately place the cooked spinach in a bowl of cold water.
This will holt the cooking process and stop the spinach from becoming overcooked. In turn, it will also preserve the taste, texture and vibrant colour of the spinach, not to mention spinach gomaae is served cold anyway so this step speeds up the preparation process.
If you live in a hot country or you make spinach gomaae in summer, I recommend adding a few ice cubes to the water to make it extra cold.Print