Spinach ohitashi salad is a very simple dish as a side or substitute for salad. Simply boil and serve with bonito flakes topping, or sesame seeds if vegetarian.
First of all, this is a very simple spinach dish to serve as a side or a substitute for salad. The word ohitashi (お浸し) came from the word hitashi (浸し) which means “immerse” or “dunk”. Originally vegetables and even seafood immersed in a flavoured sauce of some sort was called ohitashi. Nowadays ohitashi is mostly represented as boiled vegetables — usually greens — with soy sauce poured over it.
English spinach is the most typical green vegetables for ohitashi, hence “spinach ohitashi”. Simply boil the spinach and cut it into appropriate lengths. Pile the spinach neatly on a plate to arrange, top with katsuobushi (鰹節, dried bonito flakes) and dress with soy sauce.
If English spinach ohitashi is not your preference, you could use broccolini or Chinese green vegetables which are good for boiling.
Common topping of this dish is katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes). You can buy katsuobushi at Asian grocery stores. Please refer to Home Style Japanese Dashi Stock where I talked more about katsuobushi. If you are a vegetarian, you could use roasted white sesame seeds instead of katsuobushi.
My son once topped it with fried shallots and fried garlic, which are Chinese seasonings, to give it a bit of twist. It certainly wasn’t a typical Japanese spinach ohitashi any more due to garlic but it was tasty!
I have laid the spinach bunches like logs but you could also stand the bunch up with the cut side at the top and bottom, placing them next each other instead of piling them up. To present neatly in this way though, you would have to cut the spinach into exactly the same length and make almost equal size of bunches so that they look neat and tidy when plated. That’s the reason why I don’t make them stand!
Typical way of eating spinach ohitashi is with soy sauce but again, you could use citrus based dressing such as ponzu or slightly mild vinegar soy source called tasazu. Please visit Japanese Dressings for the recipes.
- 1 bunch of English spinach (no need to wash unless you notice soil)
- Dried bonito flakes 1-2 tbsp (Note 1)
- Soy sauce
Boil a good amount of water in a large pot. Add a pinch of salt and put in the bunch of spinach, root end down, then slowly push the rest into the boiling water.
When the water starts boiling again, cook for another 15-30 seconds (Note 2). Remove the pot from the heat. Drain the water, leaving the spinach in the pot. Use the lid or tongs to hold the spinach in the pot as you drain the water.
Run cold clean water into the pot with the spinach in it. Continue to run water and rinse the spinach well with your hands while at the same time cooling it down quickly.
Take few stems of spinach at a time, squeezing the water out as much as you can and place them on a cutting board. Repeat with the rest of the spinach stems.
Align all the stems with root side on the right (if you are a right hander). If roots are long, cut off to the beginning of the root and discard. Starting from the root end, cut the spinach into about 4cm length (Note 3).
Take each 4cm / 1.5 inch bunch, again squeeze residual water out and arrange it on a plate in the ways I described in the introduction. Just before serving, sprinkle dried bonito flakes over the spinach. Serve with soy sauce (Note 4).
1. If dried bonito flakes are not your preferred topping, you could substitute roasted white sesame. The flavour is quite different of course but it looks as good.
2. Boiling time varies depending on the type of spinach you can get and also depending on your preference for doneness. Some people prefer al-dente, some like well-cooked.
3. The root end of spinach is pink and it is edible. It's actually very sweet and I must say it is the best part of the spinach. Unfortunately, this time round, the root end of the spinach I bought was quite ugly and not nice at all. Hence you cannot see the pink part of the spinach in the photos. If your spinach root is clean and soft, include it when cutting the spinach.
4. Instead of soy sauce, you could serve with ponzu which is a citrus-based soy dressing. Please refer to Japanese Dressings for the recipes.