Hourensou no gomaae

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.

Hourensou no gomaae

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by MikaDifficulty: Easy


Cooking time




  • 200g spinach (0.4lb)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • Sesame dressing
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce


  • Prepare these ingredients.
  • Cut the bottom of the spinach stem crosswise. It’s a good way for washing off the mud inside of it. It’s also useful to blanch the spinach evenly.
  • Wash the bottoms of the spinach gently in a rubbing motion. Next, rinse the leaves in cold water.
  • Boil water in a large pan. Add about 1 teaspoon of salt to make the spinach a vivid green color.
  • Blanch the spinach. First, soak the stems of the spinach in boiling water, till the stems become soft.
  • Soak the whole spinach until it turns a vivid green color. It takes approximately 30 seconds or so.
  • Soak the blanched spinach immediately in icy cold water.
  • Drain the spinach.
  • Squeeze excess moisture from the spinach.
  • Cut it into 4cm (1.5in).
  • Place sesame seeds in a small pan and roast over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally until the sesame seeds become light golden brown.
  • Place sesame seeds in the mortar. Don’t grind the sesame seeds too much. The rough texture is one of the key points of this dish. Grind them until they become like this picture
  • Add sugar and soy sauce to the ground sesame seeds, mix them well.
  • Add blanched spinach. When adding the spinach, squeeze the bunches of spinach again and spread each of them out and mix to ensure it is evenly coated with the dressing.


  • You can adjust the amount of sugar and soy sauce to your preference.

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