by Kanami Egami

Ameno may be loosely described as the Japanese equivalent of salads. Two important points for the success of these salads are:

  1. All ingredients must be cooled thoroughly.
  2. Ingredients should be tossed just before serv­ing. Sesame seed dressing is one of the most popular dressings.

Spinach salad with sesame seed dressing (Horenso-no-goma-ae)

Ingredients (serves 5-6)

300 g. spinach
soy sauce

(a) 3 tbsp. white sesame seeds
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sugar

Cooking method:

(1) Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt. Cook spinach in the boiling water and plunge into a bowl of cold water. Drain and squeeze. Cut into 3-4 cm. lengths. Pour 1 tbsp. soy sauce over spinach and squeeze again.

Cooking spinach

(2) Preheat a heavy pan over a medium heat. Add sesame seeds and roast lightly, shaking the pan con­stantly. To test whether they are done, crush one or two seeds and they should give off a pleasant aroma. Grind in suribachi.

Grind in suribachi

(3) Combine dressing (a) with ground sesame seeds. Add spinach and mix lightly. Serve in small attractive dishes.

Variation: Asparagus with sesame seed dressing


200 g. asparagus
1 tbsp. flour
5 cups water

2 tbsp. white sesame seeds
1.5 tsp. sugar
1-1.5 tbsp. soy sauce

Cooking method:

(1) Mix 1 tbsp. flour to 5 cups of water. Leave asparagus in the water for 1 hour. Drain.

(2) Parboil asparagus in salted boiling water. Cool and cut into 3 cm. lengths. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. soy sauce. Drain.

(3) Heat a heavy pan and roast sesame seeds lightly. Place the roasted seeds in a suribachi and grind to a paste.

(4) Add ingredients (a) gradually to the sesame seed paste and blend well.

(5) Toss the asparagus in the dressing just before serving.

Note on sesame seeds:

Both black and white sesame seeds are available.

White sesame seeds are often used in Japanese dishes. The sesame seeds are usually roasted lightly by dry-frying in a pan and then gently crushed so as to release the fragrance. They are usually ground in a suribachi but an electric coffee grinder is an excel­lent substitute.