March 28, 2005
Goma-ae (or Goma-easy, if you ask me)

Goma-Ae I spy:
Green, bright and quite delicious
Sesame and soy

Goma-ae is a common appetizer in American Japanese restaurants where it is done up with a peanutty sauce that is too thick and that obliterates the spinach and sesame flavors. I suspected the heavy hand of American retauranteering on the dish and I think I was right.

I found several versions of goma-ae on the web and synthesized those into this simple version. The bright green color of the spinach is retained and the sweet sake and sesame flavors filter through the dominant spinach. It takes about three minutes to make, so give it a whirl as an appetizer or first course next time you serve Asian food.

16 ounces fresh spinach, bundled
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake or plum wine
1/2 teaspoon lemon (optional) or rice wine vinegar (also optional)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

You can use untoasted or toasted sesame seeds and oil for this dish as you prefer.

Put a large pot of water on the boil. Wash your spinach very well, keeping it tied together in a bundle. I usually soak the spinach in a big bowl of cold water, changing the water a couple of times.

When the water in the pot is boiling, remove the spinach from the cold water bowl, dump out th edirty water, and clean the bowl, then fill the bowl with very cold tap or ice water.

Lower the spinach bundle into the boiling water. Keep it in there for about 30-45 seconds. Remove the spinach when its turned a beautiful bright green and plunge it into the ice water bath. This should stop the spinach from cooking and let it retain its bright green coloring.

In a mortar, grind the sesame seeds into a paste-like consistency. Whick together in a small bowl the sesame oil, soy sauce, sake, and optional lemon/rice wine vinegar. Add the mortar crushed seeds to the sauce and stir more.

Remove the spinach from the ice water and drain it. Remove the bundling tie and chop the spinach finely, then mix with the sauce.

Form the goma-ae into small stacks in the middle of a plate and serve or put in small ramekins to form into low cylindars in the refrigerator.

I don't recommend frozen spinach for this dish. Fresh is required. Other than that, the recipe isn't very fussy and can take a bit more or less of any of the ingredients to suit your tastes. This version serves four very minimalist appetizers. Double or half proportionally to serve more people, or go crazy and double up the portions.

Serve cold.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at March 28, 2005 7:30 PM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

This looks like a fabulous little starter. Thanks, Barrett.

Posted by Suebob on March 31, 2005 at 10:41 PM

I make a dish very similar to this that I learned 20 years ago from a Buddhist monk. The monks are very frugal & hating waste, use even the roots of spinach. The dressing is almost identical except they add a small pinch of cayenne pepper. The fresh roots turn this lovely pink & green when blanched and have a nice crunch to them. Just make sure to clean them extra well (I use a soft toothbrush, LOL). Ita-daki-masu! (bon appetit in Japanese!) Moira

Posted by moira on April 1, 2005 at 5:37 PM

This was a very good start. I forgot to grind the sesame seeds and it was fine. I also added some hot sesame oil and some honey at the very end as my sauce was a little bitter. Delicious - will definitely make again!

Posted by rose on February 6, 2010 at 12:32 PM
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