This Japanese side dish is one of the most popular accompaniments to a home-style meal. You can grind the sesame as coarsely or as finely as you like.






Skill level

Average: 3.4 (86 votes)


  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp sake
  • 1 tsp soy sauce, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 bunch (about 250g) spinach

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Toast the sesame seeds in a dry saucepan over medium heat and transfer to a large mortar and pestle with the sugar. Grind to a rough paste then add the sake and soy sauce and continue to grind until quite smooth.

Wash the spinach well, keeping the roots intact. Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Place the spinach in the pot roots first and hold the roots and stems in the liquid for about 10 seconds, then lower the leaves into the water and cook for 30 seconds. Remove the spinach from the pot, drop it into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible (use a sushi mat if you like, or your hands).

Place the spinach on a large plate and drizzle with a little soy sauce, then cut it into 5cm lengths and discard the roots. Transfer to the mortar. Mix with the sesame dressing but do not pound the spinach. Remove from the mortar and serve at room temperature.



• A Japanese mortar (suribachi) has ridges inside the bowl and is used for grinding rather than pounding, but any mortar and pestle will work fine.

• I prefer toasting sesame seeds in a small saucepan rather than a frypan because it allows you to swirl the seeds rather than trying to toss them in a frypan. The swirling motion will toast the seeds more evenly.



Recipes and images from Adam Liaw's Asian Cookery School (Hachette Australia, $49.99 hbk, $17.99 ebook).


View our Readable feasts review and more recipes from the book here.