Sesame Spinach (시금치 나물)
Vegetables! Boring! But there are a number of vegetables that can be prepared in the same way as sesame-spinach, one of my favourite Korean side dishes (반찬) which is both incredibly easy to make and tasty enough to ‘pig out’ on. I will often raid the fridge at night to snack on this. Koreans use the entire baby spinach plant which I’ve not seen in the UK but I’m sure you could probably make it with other types of spinach and indeed substitute spinach for other types of leaf.
The biggest bind to making this side dish is removing the yellowed leaves and trimming off the stalks. I recently watched the guru of Korean cooking, Maangchi performing a similar process with young radish shoots (열무) and her skills with a knife are formidable. In a flash she cut out yellowed leaves, trimmed off roots and scrapped their shafts clean. To be honest, I can’t be bothered, all that work for a couple of munches! What takes the wonderful Maangchi ten seconds takes me a minute and besides, she’s younger and not prone to backache standing over the sink. I only cook for me and once any chemicals and dust are washed off, I’m happy to eat any bits of root and yellowed leaf though I will pick them out if not too much bother.
In Korea, you usually buy spinach in bundles and it is best to put these straight in water and let them soak. Withered looking bunches will quickly revive. I recently bought a bundle and then went for a walk leaving them on the back seat of a car on a hot afternoon. On my return they had totally wilted and at home I noticed some plants were beginning to decompose . Subsequently, the water I washed them in was tainted green and smelt a little like a dirty goldfish bowl.
Way too much work removing the few bad bits, so after thoroughly swishing them in water, they were blanched for a about a minute . Usually, I keep the stock and add it to bean paste soup which I eat for breakfast. This panful, I chucked straight down the sink.! The leaves are then washed in cold water and when properly drained, tossed in chopped red chilli, garlic, sesame seeds, a good splash of soy sauce and sesame seed oil. I’m on a diet, so I use the sesame oil sparingly but it is this which gives this side dish such a sexy aroma and compliments and transforms the spinach into something you can easily alone.
I can report, that I at no time noticed anything unpleasant about the decomposed state of some of the spinach leaves, washing, blanching and rinsing removed most of them. It still tasted delicious.
The Queen of Korean cooking, Maangchi, would be appalled at my cooking technique so if you want a first class tutorial, in various formats, on how to make this simple side dish, please click the photo below to activate. The site also contain many comments from readers who have tried various other vegetables to make a similar side dish.
I have used the same recipe using:
Baby radish sprouts (옇무).
Mung bean shoots (숙주 나물)