This recipe has been in my arsenal since time immemorial. It’s the SHIIIIIIT. Those little parcels of spinach all wrapped together in a super craveable, umami-laden sesame sauce – ufffffff, it gets me every time. If like me, you already had a very high bar for acceptable spinach gomae renditions, this recipe will only cause you to be more rigid in your expectations for this dish. The fact that it takes approximately 10 minutes to have on the table just adds fuel to that fire. Sorry not sorry if you’d grown complacent with the local sushi joint’s peanut-butter laced version of gomae, but this one is going to kick your old standard right out the window.
Slightly adapted from Shelley Adams (Whitewater Cooks: with Friends)
2 lb (or ll oz packet) baby spinach, washed, with any particularly tough stems discarded
1 tbsp salt
1 ½ tsp white sugar
1 tsp dried bonito flakes (available at most Asian grocers or specialty food stores)
4 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly pan-toasted, divided
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Stir in the salt and baby spinach, pushing down to submerge the leaves. Cook for 1 minute, the immediately drain and run under very cold water for 30 seconds. Using your hands, squeeze as much water from the spinach as possible, then place the drained spinach on a layer of paper towels and wring out again. Place the spinach in a medium-sized bowl and set aside while you make the dressing.
Place the sugar, bonito flakes, and 2 tbsp sesame seeds in the bowl of a food processor (mini food processors are perfect for this!) and blend together until the seeds are coarsely crushed. Add the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and 2 tbsp water. Blend until fairly smooth and creamy.
Toss the drained spinach with the dressing until well-coated. You may need to give the spinach a gentle squeeze after dressing if the leaves have become too wet to work with. Divide the spinach into 2 portions and roll each piece out into a tight log, about 6 inches long. I use the palms of my hands to press the spinach down and compact it as best I can. The spinach is hard to roll, but don’t worry too much, you can always shape the pieces more easily once they’re sliced. Cut each log into 3 smaller logs, re-shape as needed, then sprinkle with the extra sesame seeds. Serve on a plain white platter and feel very minimalist and superior.