I’ve long wondered whether I should refer to this dish as ohitashi or goma-ae.
Ohitashi (sometimes spelled oshitashi by Westerners) refers to any dish where blanched vegetables are soaked in a dashi-based sauce. Dashi is a broth made by boiling kelp and katsuobushi (bonito flakes).
Goma-ae literally means sesame sauce (goma is sesame and ae is sauce). It also refers to a wide array of a dishes that consist of vegetables mixed with sesame dressing. The most well-known outside Japan is spinach goma-ae.
I suppose this salad is both ohitashi and goma-ae. BUT.
After two trips to Japan, I learned 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.
We stand by our no-boiling-and-no-reduction goma-ae recipe but there’s a little extra about the sesame seeds that are stirred in. We grind them while still hot.
Japanese-style spinach and mushroom salad
- 1 bag spinach - or about two generous handfuls
- 4 shiitake - thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dashi
- 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 sesame dressing (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 a quarter of the ground sesame seeds to a bowl and reserve.
- To the remaining sesame seeds in the grinder, add the rice v0negar, dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and blend the flavors.
Assemble the salad
- 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.