Mother-In-Law’s Seasoned Spinach (Shigumchi namul)

Shigumchi Namul (seasoned spinach) |

This is one of the first vegetable dishes that I remember from my youth and one of my favorites. Growing up, I remembered how spinach (and other vegetables) were portrayed as horrible, bland, and abhorred by all children. Every commercial, cartoon, and TV show taught us to reject the green vegetable. I was so puzzled. There wasn’t a vegetable I didn’t like and spinach was one of my favorites. My mom made this banchan, shigumchi namul, often. Aside from the obligatory dish of kimchi at the dinner table, this dish made its appearance regularly at the table also. Spinach is a bitter green leafy vegetable, but the tangy and salty seasoning complements the spinach flavor. And the spinach is never boiled to death, but always blanched to retain its color and shape. So, I just never got the anti-spinach message. Thank goodness.

It’s such a simple banchan, but the simplicity has proven to be a challenge. I’ve watched my mom prepare the dish thousands of time. I attempted to make the dish with the same ingredients, but I could never quite get it right. I’ve tried other recipes from various cookbooks and websites with little success.

But a couple of weekends ago, I visited my in-laws’ house and my mother-in-law wanted to include this dish for dinner. She quietly requested that I make the dish. Typically, I would go ahead and oblige, but this time I refused (in the nicest and the most polite way possible) by telling her that despite my “expertise”, this is the one dish that I cannot make well.  I prodded her to go ahead with her own recipe. She finally agreed after some “discussion” and told me that she just used minced garlic, sesame oil, and salt. I nodded politely and said that it sounded great. But I thought, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. No soy sauce or vinegar?!” And guess what? It was perfect! My search was over! It’s what I had been looking for all these years.  A big gahm-sahm-nee-dah (thank you) to my mother-in-law!

Mother-In-Law’s Seasoned Spinach

2 bunches spinach
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 stalk green onion, sliced thinly crosswise
2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds, crushed

1 – Wash and rinse the spinach thoroughly.

2 – Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a couple of splashes of vinegar to the water. With a strainer or sieve filled with the spinach, blanch the spinach until it just wilts and turns a bright green (it doesn’t take long). Immediately remove the spinach from the hot water and either rinse under cold water or dunk into a large bowl of ice water.

3 – Drain the spinach. Take a handful of the spinach and give it a good squeeze to squeeze out the excess water, set aside. Repeat until you work through all the spinach.

4 – In a medium-sized bowl, toss the spinach with the sesame oil, garlic, salt, green onions, and sesame seeds. Toss until thoroughly combined. Enjoy!

Shigumchi Namul (seasoned spinach) |


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  • Alice Choi

    omg, I love this. . totally agree with you re: eating spinach and veggies as a kid . . glad my parents also started me on Korean banchan. . and I’ve done the same with my kids. . and thankfully they will eat pretty much any RAW vegetable with ranch dressing . . which, whatever, as long as they are eating the veggies is ok by me. :) I didn’t get into cooking much Korean food until maybe the past 3 years. . but yeah, now thanks to my mom, I can cook all the banchan we like. . with the exception of the Korean Picked kimchi or whatever it’s called when the pickle is left whole with the radish stuff inside. . do you have this one on your blog?

    • kimchi_mom

      My kids will eat veggies and are more likely to eat them if they are prepared Korean style which is better than nothing!

      Are you talking about Oi kimchi? I hate to admit it, but that is one kimchi that I never fell in love with, but I do want to tackle it this summer and make it palatable for me!

      • Alice Choi

        yes! oi kimchi. . my Korean sucks. . let me know if you do! I’d love to try your recipe! :)

  • Ann Mah

    I love this, too — and never realized it was so simple. Spinach and sesame seeds are a brilliant combination.

  • hye-jin

    thanks for the recipe! i forgot that’s how it’s made. it’s been so long….. perfect during a heat wave.

  • Matt

    Im definitely going to try this and I also have one request for you.
    I was once served Whole heads of garlic which seem to have been boiled in a vinegar type of broth. The processed heads are then stored in a large glass jar and refrigerated The taste was really mild and creamy with a slight vinegar taste and definitely not salty. Ive been told that this can only be made from new season Garlic and that the preparation process is a bit of a hassle, however, this is something I really want to learn how to make.. Do you have any ideas?? thanks and I really like your blog.

  • Rima Sagala

    This is always a fav of mine when I go to a korean bbq place (along with kimchI, cucumbers and sprouts!). So simple to make. Gonna try!!!