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!