Easy to make and tasty as sin, spinach and shiitake oshitashi with goma-ae (roasted sesame dressing) is a Japanese side dish to delight everyone.
It was seven years ago when I first came across recipes for “Japanese spinach with sesame dressing”. I figured if it was a Japanese dish, surely, there was a Japanese name for it? I did a little research.
In some sites, it was called oshitashi; in others, it was goma-ae. What the heck? So, I did several more searches. After visiting a dozen food websites and blogs, and fifteen minutes of reading, I figured it out — oshitashi is the name of the dish; goma-ae is the name of the sesame dressing.
Seven years and two trips to Japan later, I realized that oshitashi isn’t a spinach dish per se but, rather, a preparation that involves soaking and it can apply not just to spinach but to other vegetables too. The eggplant dish I made last year is actually an oshitashi.
I learned too that there is more than one way to make goma-ae. Some recipes include dashi among the ingredients while others call for a reduction of a mixture of dashi, soy sauce and sake. The simplest recipes for the sesame seed dressing simply require that soy sauce, mirin and sugar be mixed with toasted sesame seeds. I stand by my no-boiling-and-no-reduction goma-ae recipe but there’s a little extra about the sesame seeds that are stirred in.
Thanks to my daughter, Alex, and her infatuation with her suribachi (she executed this dish based on my old recipe), I learned that goma-ae is so much tastier and more aromatic when the sesame seeds are ground using a suribachi. There’s something about the grooves in the bowl that releases the oil and flavor of the seeds better. The grinding is faster too.
Spinach and Shiitake Oshitashi with Goma-ae (Roasted Sesame Dressing)
- 1 bag spinach or about two generous handfuls
- 4 shiitake mushrooms thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 ½ tablespoons Japanese soy sauce I used Kikkoman
- 1 ½ tablespoons mirin
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- sesame seed oil optional
Blanch spinach and shiitake
- Rinse the spinach well. If the stalks are rather large and tough, pick the leaves and discard the stalks. Otherwise, include the stalks in the dish and just roughly chop everything.
- Boil water in a large pot and add a teaspoon of salt. Blanch the spinach for about a minute. Scoop out and drain (keep the water in the pot boiling).
- Dump the spinach in a bowl of iced water. Drain. Squeeze out as much water as you can. Place in a bowl and set aside.
- Dump the sliced shiitake in the boiling water, cook for a minute, drain well and toss with the cooled spinach.
Make the goma-ae
- Dry toast the sesame seeds in a pan until nutty in aroma and glistening.
- While the seeds are hot, grind using a suribachi (a regular mortar and pestle will do but will require a longer time to grind).
- Transfer half of the ground sesame seeds to a bowl and add the soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and blend the flavors.
Assemble the oshitashi
- Pour a tablespoon the dressing on the spinach and shiitake. Toss. Taste. Depending on how much spinach you have, you may need more than a tablespoonful of dressing. So, add more dressing, if needed.
- Drizzle some sesame oil, if using and don't overdo it, and toss a few more times.
- Top with the reserved sesame seeds and serve.