Chrysanthemum Leaves Goma-ae (胡麻和え) is a side dish made with sweet sesame dressing. This is a pure vegetarian dish and very quick to make. The dressing has the full flavour of sesame with a little bit of sweetness and it goes so well with the slight bitterness of chrysanthemum leaves. English spinach and other greens can also be used instead.
The reason for initiating this blog site was to document my children’s favourite Japanese recipes in English so that they could cook them themselves. In addition to these, I included the dishes I liked, which may not necessarily be my kids favourites.
From time to time, I popped in the recipes that I wanted to share rather than the recipes my kids wanted. But my daughters recently pointed out to me that I went off the track and was posting the dishes that they were not so crazy about.
Most dishes my children like are those that are full of flavours such as Katsu-don, Yakitori, Teriyaki chicken, Okonomiyaki etc. If you click RECIPE INDEX on the top menu of my blog site, then click the category “Popular” on the left side list, you will understand what I mean.
But I think it is important for not only my children but also my readers to know that there are traditional Japanese dishes with subtle flavourings and delicate presentations.
So, I decided to ignore my daughters’ feedback and post “Chrysanthemum Leaves Goma-ae” today. I have posted my kids favourites a few weeks in a row so I think it is time to post my favourite.
The word “goma-ae” (胡麻和え) comes from goma (胡麻, sesame) and the verb, aeru (和える, dress). Goma-ae can be made with white sesame or black sesame. Although it is called “dressing” in English, goma-ae dressing is quite different from gomadare (胡麻だれ, sesame sauce) dressing in my post, Japanese Dressings.
In addition to ground roasted white sesame seeds, gomadare contains vinegar, miso, dashi stock, soy sauce and mirin while goma-ae dressing consists of ground sesame seeds, soy sauce, sugar and mirin, hence I call it sweet sesame dressing. And goma-ae dressing is not watery at all, unlike gomadare.
There are different types of white sesame seeds you can buy at Japanese/Asian grocery stores. Some are raw and you need to dry roast them in a fry pan over low heat until the colour of the sesame seeds changes to light brown and the sesame fragrance comes out.
But you can buy roasted white sesame seeds or even ground roasted white sesame at Japanese/Asian grocery stores. I usually buy roasted white sesame seeds from either Japanese grocery stores or Korean grocery stores as their sesame seeds are plump and have good sesame fragrance. I prefer grating the roasted sesame seeds as needed so that I can obtain a fresher sesame fragrance.
Most goma-ae uses English spinach. But I had plenty of chrysanthemum leaves left after making a hotpot for myself and I wanted to consume the leftover leaves. So, today’s recipe is goma-ae using chrysanthemum leaves.
You could use other green vegetables such as beans, mizuna, broccoli, or okra. Cabbage can also be used but I think that white sesame stands out better in green vegetables. Boil the vegetables, cut them into bite size pieces and dress with goma-ae sauce.
Chrysanthemum leaves are called “shungiku” (春菊) in Japanese. In English, they might be called garland chrysanthemum, chrysanthemum greens, etc. They are not the leaves from chrysanthemum flowers, actually.
The flower is called glebionis coronaria, which is a species of the daisy family. Its flowering season is spring unlike the chrysanthemum, which blooms in autumn. Because the leaves are similar to chrysanthemum but it flowers in spring, Japanese named these leaves “shungiku”, which means spring chrysanthemum.
They are native to China and Japan and widely used in Asian cuisine. In the case of Japan, chrysanthemum leaves are almost always included in hotpot dishes. The leaves are very delicate and only require 15-30 seconds to boil.
Prolonged boiling will make the leaves bitter and mushy. Even if blanched right, you will notice a tiny amount of bitterness in the leaves with a distinct flavour when you eat them. This unique flavour with bitterness is quite addictive.
It is usually served as a side dish but I think that it can be served as an appetiser or a salad. I hope you try goma-ae.
Goma-ae (胡麻和え) is a side dish made with vegetables and sweet sesame dressing. This is a pure vegetarian dish and very quick to make. The dressing has the full flavour of sesame with a little bit of sweetness and it goes so well with the slight bitterness of chrysanthemum leaves.
You can use other green vegetables with this sweet sesame dressing. See note 1 for suggestions.
- 300 g (10.6oz) chrysanthemum leaves (note 1)
- A pinch of salt
- Roasted white sesame seeds for decoration (optional)
- 3 tbsp roasted white sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp mirin
If the stems of chrysanthemum leaves are thick and hard, remove the leaves off the thick part of the stems. Then cut the thick part of the stem off and discard.
Boil a good amount of water in a large pot. Add a pinch of salt and put in the chrysanthemum leaves.
When the water starts boiling again, cook for another 15 seconds. Remove the pot from the heat. Drain the water, leaving the chrysanthemum leaves in the pot. Use the lid or tongs to hold the leaves in the pot as you drain the water.
Run cold clean water into the pot with the chrysanthemum leaves in it. Continue to run water and rinse them well with your hands, while at the same time cooling it down quickly.
Take stems and loose leaves of the chrysanthemum leaves, squeezing the water out as much as you can and place them on a cutting board. If necessary, do it in batches.
Align all the stems with stem side on the right (if you are a right hander). Starting from the stem end, cut the chrysanthemum leaves into about 4cm (1½”) length.
Take each bunch of cut leaves, squeeze residual water out and place them in a bowl.
Using a mortar and pestle, grate sesame seeds until most of the seeds are grated (note 2).
Add the remaining Goma-ae Dressing ingredients to the mortar. Mix well.
Add the goma-ae dressing to the bowl and mix well ensuring that the chrysanthemum leaves are thoroughly coated with the dressing.
Place chrysanthemum leaves in a large bowl or individually. Sprinkle roasted white sesame seeds.
1. Also called garland chrysanthemum, chrysanthemum greens, etc. The shape of the leaves is similar to chrysanthemum leaves but longer.
Instead of chrysanthemum leaves, you can use English spinach, beans, mizuna, broccoli or okra.
2. You could grate them thoroughly without leaving any sesame bits if you like. This will make the goma-ae dressing smoother.