Korean Sesame Spinach Salad
This lightly blanched salad is whipped up quickly and makes a great addition to any stir fry or Asian noodle dish.
While we can't take full credit for coming up with this recipe (the credit really goes to Judy Joo of Fine Cooking), we did put our own spin on it and we figure maybe everybody wants to know how to make Korean-style spinach.
If you've ever been to a Korean restaurant - or perhaps to a Korean friend's house, or to Korea itself - you may have noticed the often-present Korean spinach salad. Perhaps, like us, you've been dying to figure out just how it's made and if it's doable for you. It is!
Spinach is great and you can totally have a fresh spinach salad any day of the week but let's say you're trying to get more spinach in your diet and you need a few different ways to incorporate it so you don't go out of your mind with boredom for your food (don't roll your eyes, Joy would do that). Well, here's another spinach option.
This recipe has only a few ingredients, can be whipped up quickly and, while it's suggested that you let it sit for about an hour before you eat it, it actually tastes bangin' straight out of the mixing bowl.
Blanching is the act of lightly boiling something before serving. The vegetables are not completely cooked and so therefore retain most of the nutrition of their fresh counterparts, however they are slightly less firm and in the case of spinach, wilted, in comparison.
Fresh spinach is essential to this recipe. If you try to substitute with frozen you will regret it. Frozen spinach is already blanched, therefore you'll just be overcooking the spinach and making it possibly slimy. But we are totally for prepared baby spinach so you don't have to wash bunches of spinach if you're not in the mood.
Korean spinach salads don't always have carrots but we like ours with it. You can of course decide not to use carrots in this recipe but we think that extra color and nutrition is worth it.
This salad is best the same day but is still pretty great for the first three. It may last about a week but we think after the three-day mark it's past it's peak. We don't suggest freezing this salad.
Authentic Korean recipes use soy and sesame as ingredients. If you are only avoiding gluten than you can easily use tamari in place of soy in recipes. Tamari is just gluten-free soy sauce. If you replace the sesame oil the taste will be drastically altered. We don't recommend it. You can probably get a decent blanched spinach salad using olive or avocado oil in place of sesame oil but it will taste very different from the real deal.
If you don't have rice vinegar you can substitute distilled white vinegar, however rice vinegar has a milder tang and a distinct flavor so the overall taste will be different without it.
You can substitute chopping the carrot for buying a bag of pre-cut matchstick carrots, usually found in the produce aisle of regular grocery stores. If you do decide to julienne your own carrot into matchsticks but need a little help, try here.
Recipe: Korean Sesame Spinach Salad (Sigeumchi Muchim)
Course: Side Dish
Skill Level: Beginner/Easy
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes (or, without wait time, 15 minutes)
1 lb (16 oz) spinach, stemmed and washed
1/2 heaping cup (5 oz) carrots, chopped in matchsticks (about 1 large carrot)
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp tamari sauce (or 2 Tbsp coconut aminos)
1 tsp white sesame seeds (optional)
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp coconut sugar
1/2 tsp minced garlic (about 1-2 small cloves)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
If you are working with a bunch of spinach and a whole carrot, go ahead and rinse the spinach thoroughly and remove the stems. Peel and cut the carrot into matchsticks.
Chop the garlic until it's minced.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. You can also add a dollop of sesame oil to keep the spinach from clumping too much and to blanch the vegetables with a hint of the flavor we want them to have.
First add the matchstick carrots for about 5 minutes.
Then add the prepared spinach for about 5 minutes. The spinach should be bright green and starting to wilt so not too wilted but not too leafy fresh either.
Drain spinach and carrots in a colander/strainer and rinse with very cold water until no longer warm.
Gently squeeze spinach to get most of the moisture out (you will squeeze some of your carrots with this as well, but that's okay). Try to squeeze so that it's not dripping wet but don't squeeze it so hard that you create spinach-carrot mush.
In a bowl mix together the chopped garlic, tamari sauce, sesame seeds, rice vinegar, sugar and black pepper.
Separate the clumps of spinach as you add it to the seasonings.
Mix thoroughly until all carrots and spinach are coated with seasoning and everything is well incorporated.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld. Return to room temperature before serving.
The flavors become more potent as they marinate so be careful not to add too much more of any of the ingredients or you will find yourself with overly salty, oily or garlicky spinach.
This recipe is great as a snack, as part of a sandwich, with noodles, or as a side dish. We especially enjoy it with Korean sweet potato noodles stir fry known as chop chae.
Love Korean cuisine? Enjoyed our recipe? Let us know in the comments below! Figured out what else this pairs well with? Wish we'd try other Korean recipes? Tell us below!