I think the first time that I decided to try gomae was when I found out that my iron levels are low. Spinach is generally considered to be a rich source of iron but it is not an easy task to consume a substantial portion of spinach when it is raw. Enter gomae, a cold Japanese appetizer consisting of cooked, cooled and pressed down spinach served with a tasty, toasted sesame dressing. You would be amazed at the amount of raw spinach that is whittled down into one serving of gomae.
To make the gomae sauce, sesame seeds are toasted and then are ground with a combination of sake or mirin, soya sauce and honey or sugar. Something about this combination makes for an appetizer that is both incredibly healthy and amazingly delicious. The toasted-sesame based, slightly sweet, dressing makes eating the cooked spinach more of a pleasure than a chore and I will eat gomae nearly any time I find myself at a sushi joint.
When I bought my first sampling of sea asparagus I came across a recipe for sea-asparagus gomae. I thought it was such a clever idea that I built upon this idea and turned it into an asian-inspired noodle bowl. I attempted to make gomae once before, when I did not have a mortar and pestle. I tried pureeing sesame seeds in my food processor but it just did not work. Eventually I bought a mortar and pestle but until now I have not re-attempted to make a sesame paste. I thought this was a great opportunity to attempt making a gomae dressing and also to spice up my usual noodle bowl recipe.
Gomae inspired noodle dish with sea asparagus
You can substitute in regular asparagus, green beans or any of your other favourite vegetables like broccoli for the sea asparagus in this recipe.
1/3 cup sesame seeds
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp tamari or light soya sauce
2 tbsp honey
1 package tofu
1 garlic clove crushed
1 shallot thinly sliced
1 red pepper
1 yellow zucchini
1/4 lb sea asparagus
1 package soba noodles
1 green onion
1 small carrot grated
1. Toast sesame seeds in a cast iron pan for 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
2. Grind sesame seeds into a rough paste with a mortar and pestle.
3. Mix together the mirin, tamari and honey with the sesame paste and thin out the sauce slightly with 1 -2 tbsp of water.
4. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook sea asparagus for 2 minutes then submerge in an ice bath until cool and then drain.
5. Bring a pot of water to boil (yes again).
6. Cook soba noodles in boiling water for 6 - 8 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron pan to medium heat, add 1 tbsp sesame oil and add tofu cubes, spreading out in a single layer.
8. Cook 4 minutes before tossing. Cook another 5 minutes, tossing every minute.
9. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat a tsp of oil and stir in garlic, shallots and zucchini and cook 3 minutes, stirring often. Add sea asparagus and cook until heated through.
10. Drain noodles and toss with half of the sesame sauce.
11. Serve noodles topped with vegetables, tofu and add extra sauce to taste.
12. Garnish with grated carrot, green onion and cilantro.