Hourensou no gomaae
I was a bit surprised when my Canadian friend asked me about this dish called gomaae. I’ve never thought that such a minor side dish was known in another country. Gomaae is used as a side dish very often. It’s usually served as small portions in a small bowl, or it’s placed in the corner of a bento box. Although it would never be the star of your meal, this kind of dish is essential for Japanese cuisine to add a variety to set or course meals.
Hourensou (ほうれん草) means spinach. Goma (胡麻) means sesame. Ae (和え) is kind of the abbreviation of aemono (和え物). Aemono is a Japanese salad of vegetables, fish or seaweed dressed with something like soy sauce, vinegar, etc. So, in this case, I would translate this dish as “blanched spinach with sesame dressing.” Needless to say, the ingredients in this small side dish are high in nutrients. Also, it’s easier for you to absorb the nutrition of the sesame seeds if you grind them.
You can use pre-packed ground sesame seeds for this dish. However, you could enjoy the full flavor of sesame if you use freshly ground seeds.
I usually use the Japanese mortar called Suribachi (すり鉢) to grind sesame seeds. This is a pottery bowl with many thin grooves on the inside. It seems that some people in other countries have a Japanese mortar like this.
If you have a relatively large one like mine which is about 25cm/9.8″ in diameter, the proper way of using the pestle is like this.
Use your dominant hand to grip the pestle, place your other hand on top to use as a pivot and move the pestle clockwise around the mortar. You don’t need excess power in this easy and efficient way.
You can also complete this task by using a food processor. However, I prefer using the mortar when grinding sesame seeds. “I love how the seeds pop and release their strong aromatic smell.”
This sesame dressing can be used for many other vegetables such as green beans, arugula/rocket, etc. These dishes also go well with sake or Japanese rice wine. I hope you’ll enjoy this rich nutty flavor and subtly sweet taste.
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