Spinach Ohitashi (Japanese Spinach Salad)

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Spinach Ohitashi  Recipe | JustOneCookbook.com

The majority of recipe requests that I receive from readers are vegetable dish.  Was that surprising to you?  To me it was…since I’m used to seeing my 5 and 3 year olds refusing to eat green vegetables such as spinach.  In general, traditional Japanese cuisine is known for being healthy and low in fat.  Typical Japanese meal consists of steamed rice, miso soup (every day different ingredients), main dish, and side dishes.  These side dishes are usually served individually in kobachi (literally meaning “small bowl”), just like this dish in above picture.

We have many kinds of vegetable side dishes that are not well known, unless you are very familiar with Japanese home cooked meals.  I look forward to introducing them one by one and I am planning to share the more popular ones that you might have enjoyed or heard before.  If you are my new reader, I’ve already shared some side dishes in the past including Green Bean Shiraae, Kinpira GoboOctopus Salad, and Spinach Gomaae.

Ohitashi literally means “to steep vegetables in a dashi base sauce” and it’s one of common methods we use to prepare vegetable dishes.  This method infuses ingredients with umami and subtle flavor but retains the food’s natural taste.  First you quickly blanch the vegetable, then halt the cooking by soaking it into cold water.  Then you take time to allow them to absorb the dashi sauce.  If you are not a spinach fan, please remember that we can use this ohitashi method for almost any kind of vegetable.

Another new addition to the site, I’ve made a FAQs page to answer to some of questions you might have regarding my blog and so on.  I get similar questions from readers quite often so please take a look.  I’ll be adding questions & answers to the FAQs in the future as needed.  Enjoy this light spinach side dish and see you next Monday!

Spinach Ohitashi II

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Spinach Ohitashi (Japanese Spinach Salad with Bonito Flakes)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch of spinach
  • A pinch of salt
Seasonings
Instructions
  1. Wash the spinach and boil lots of water in a large pot.
  2. When water is boiling, add a pinch of salt into boiling water. Put spinach in the pot starting from the stem first because they take longer to cook. Push all of the spinach into the water. Cook for 1 minute. Note: American spinach is very soft and we can eat it raw unlike Japanese spinach; therefore, 1 minute is enough for the US spinach.
  3. Drain and soak the spinach in cold water until cool.
  4. Collect spinach from the bowl and squeeze water out of the spinach.
  5. Cut the spinach into 1½ inch lengths and put it in air tight container.
  6. In a saucepan, heat mirin on medium high and evaporate alcohol for a few minutes. Let it cool down.
  7. Add usukuchi soy sauce and dashi stock and mix all together.
  8. Pour over spinach and soak for 3-4 hours (1 hour minimum).
  9. Serve with sauce and sprinkle dried bonito flakes over the spinach.
Notes
Prep time does not include 2-3 hour soaking time (at least 1 hour).

Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
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  1. I think more of us are realising that having more vegetables in our diets is healthier hence the requests. I’ve been eating more vegetables recently but I’m not complaining as I’ve always loved them. I’ve had this in Japanese restaurants before but I didn’t know that it was soaked in the sauce beforehand. How interesting! Thanks again for sharing such wonderful recipes with us, Nami! :)

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  2. That sounds light and delightful! My mom makes Korean spinach salad with sesame seeds and sesame oil. It’s served cold. I like your version better though (shhh don’t tell my mother) because I can’t really stand the odor of sesame oil.

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  3. Loveforfood

    So now you know why when you go into your favorite blog ….. mmmm, so many delicious recipes! this is making me so hungry

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  4. This is such a healthy and delicious side dish. I think I’ve tried this before from a Japanese restaurant, or it could be the Spinach Gomaae. It was so refreshing and flavorful. I’ve always wonder what was in the marinate! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I’m going to give it a try. Surprisingly, my 2 and 4 LOVES vegetables! (Guess I’m a really lucky mother!) ^^

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  5. I just amaze on how you make an appetizing recipe for a simple vegetable like spinach, I would love to make one we have a Japanese grocery 1 block away from our place and I am going to look for mirin and Bonito flakes =) and I am sure my husband will tell me honey you really love me. =)

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  6. I love spinach any way it’s made. However I’ve never made it this way where it sits 3 hours to absorb the marinade. I bet it’s delicious. I look forward to trying it. Thanks for all the interesting info.

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  7. What a wonderful new way to eat spinach. We are spinach lovers in my family and I throw it in a lot of food (including pizza). Thanks for a new way to try it out. :) Beautiful pictures!

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  8. Suzi

    This is definitely for me, I love spinach raw and cooked. This dish is something I want to try. I love the way you have layed out the spinach and then cut it. Great post Nami, see you Monday.

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  9. I love this side dish Nami. I have feeling it is very tasty. Looking at the photos I want this today for lunch not as a side dish:))) I can eat spinach like a crazy:))
    You did great job, can’t wait to see more of your traditional sides!!!
    Have a wonderful day my friend!

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  10. Well, I am glad veggies were number one! With all of the celebrating (also known as indulgent eating and drinking) over the holidays, I am working my tail off to get back in shape! A good, healthy, and tasty veggie is just what the doctor ordered. Thanks for sharing!

    Also, I’m coming to SF at the end of February. I’m not sure how much time I’ll have, but if I do I wanted to try and hit up a great breakfast place in China Town. Do you have any recommendations?

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    • I’m not the best person to suggest authentic Chinese breakfast food, but I found this article which might be interesting to read.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/548054

      If you want to try dim sum, I’d say Koi Palace in Daly City (south of SF) is the best around here and hope you get to try this place. You will have to wait for at least 1 hr after 10am on weekends, but the food is amazing, really authentic and just superb. Oh, if you go to China Town, don’t forget to go Golden Gate Bakery and have some egg tarts! Delicious!

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  11. Chandani

    Wow Nami, simple yet very healthy. I am turned into huge japanese cooking fan. And we Nepalese also love our rice with lentil soup and some veggies as side.

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  12. That spinach looks so tasty. I am glad that you are showing us more vegetable dishes. Making a FAQs page was a good idea. It will save you time in the long run!

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  13. I always think cooking spinach is hilarious. I buy what could best be described as a “sack” of the stuff from the store and you dumb it all into a pot and cook it, and it reduces down to nothing at all.

    I never saw spinach with such thick stems though. The stuff we have in Europe has much thinner, smaller stems and smaller leaves… maybe it’s just harvested earlier? I’m not sure if I could cut the spinach in the same way if I was making this, but I could still try and push it together to cut up. Looks great Nami! I love bonito flakes especially… could eat those like potato chips 😀

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  14. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to eat their spinach if they were serve this! So much more flavor than the spinach my mama use to make. :) Definitely will be trying this one.

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  15. Beautiful!!!!!
    I love spinach Nami, yours dish looks so fresh and cool.
    Love how easy your recipes are and yet they look so delicious….
    Yumm…

    B/W sending some spinach love to you my friend ;-), I too did a spinach recipe LOL.

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  16. hello nami,
    how are things? i know i missed something and that’s visiting your website. it’s a good thing you “liked” my post of my FB page so I’m here.
    I’ve been trying to clean my diet too. And like your kids, shhh i know i maybe too old to have it as an excuse but I know I don’t eat veggies a lot particularly the green leafy ones. But reading a lot of blogs (yours and this post included) I now look at veggies differently.
    This looks refreshing and will definitely be tried (just like your other recipes) in my household. YOu might receive another picture text from me heheh.
    Glad to be here,
    Malou

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  17. I really love the healthy and largely vegetarian Japanese ingredients and meals. This one is so simple, it would be great if kids would love it! I love your dishes, the square shape with the colorful design.

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  18. My daughter is just recently eating more things with sauce or seasonings. She was always good at eating her vegetables, and I’ve always used fresh veggies in her diet. She would ask for them steamed. I would sneak in spinach, kale or other green to where now she eats a second helping of steamed kale. I would love to try spinach this way, it looks so yummy! Your photos are stunning as usual!

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  19. What always amazing me about Japanese cuisine in general and your cooking in particular is how meticulous and BEAUTIFUL it is…truly, Nami – you are an artist!

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  20. Love spinach and this one sounds simple and delicious! Can I use regular soy sauce instead of usukuchi?
    The bowls are very unique and pretty, and the chopstick rests are too cute! When are you going to have a Guess-how-many-chopstick-rests-I-own competition? :p

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    • Hi Fern! The reason why we use usukuchi soy sauce is that the sauce/broth doesn’t get dark color. We can keep it fairy light color compared to regular soy sauce. People in Osaka often gets surprised how dark soup broth in Tokyo is because they are used to use usukuchi soy sauce. I like to use it when I want to keep the sauce/broth lighter color (like Udon soup).

      If you want to use regular one, please add a little more salt as usukuchi soy sauce is saltier than regular one. :-)

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  21. Nami, I know very well one of your side dishes. Green Bean Shiraae is a very frequent guest on my table :-)
    This spinach dish looks so wonderful I am sure it could convince more than one child to give the hated vegetable a second chance. I love to sprinkle katsuobushi everywhere and dashi makes miracles to every meat or vegetables, so I am sure this spinach tastes great. The bowls are beautiful and very original! I love them.
    Congratulations for the FAQ page! I’m hopping to see it!

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  22. I just had Japanese for dinner and will be having it for lunch tmr! Don’t think me or my family could get sick of Jap food coz as you said it’s healthy and not too fatty hehe.

    Love how blanching makes the vege to maintain such vibrant colour! Oh and enjoyed reading your FAQ :)

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  23. Spinach is one of my favourite vegetables, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t eat it! I’ve made a similar salad before but only with a goma sauce. I’ve never bought bonito flakes before as I never know what to do with them. Now I know. 😀 Does bonito flakes keep? I’ve only seen them in a huge 5kg bag or something from the Asian grocery store…that’s a lot of bonito!

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  24. What an interesting salad, Nami! I love it! In Italy spinach salad is made with raw baby spinaches and it’s usually dressed with lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, parmigiano and walnuts..
    When in Rome do as the Romans do, uh?!

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  25. Kids are so silly and so picky. We have told ours “no more, she most eat everything”. this she would actually eat thought I would have to cut it into small pieces. looks like a wonderful recipe.

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  26. Janice

    This is a perfect side dish in that it is simple, healthy and beautiful. Thanks for sharing. And also thanks for including the links for your past vegetable side dish recipes. Since I am quite new to your blog, I really appreciate it and can’t wait to make them all.

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  27. Mika

    Do your kids eat this dish? When I was little, I didn’t like eating this dish, but now I actually enjoy eating it. Funny, huh?

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  28. Dear Nami,

    Again, this is one of our favourite Japanese style vegetables to cook at home! We make it with a miso dressing and top with roasted sesame seeds though. Although I love bonito flakes especially when it looks like it’s alive just immediately after it’s been shaved, I’m not sure if I know how to prepare or shave it finely enough! Every time we make this salad, we go through 3 large bunches of spinach because it shrinks so much after cooking!

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  29. i saw bonito flakes and i was sold! i love anything with bonito flakes and i love how this is incorporated so nicely with the spinach!! love your recent spinach dishes :)

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  30. Dear Nami!
    Greetings!
    O-hitashi is probably the best Japanese concept when it comes to a light and healthy snack with you first drink or at the beginning of a home meal!
    My favorite izakaya in Shizuoka, Yasaitei, serves it all the time and I can see all the customers guzzling them down!
    Now did you know that Shizuoka is famous for Bonito, and katsuobushi of course!
    Looking forward to your next post!
    Best regrads,
    Robert-Gilles

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  31. I’m surprised so many people have been asking for vegie dishes but maybe it’s because we’re all trying to lose the christmas weight hehe i know i am :) I ‘m trying to eat more vegies hehe ~ Kids don’t usually like vegies, I know I never use to like it hehe

    Lovely easy dish and i know some people don’t like spinach but I quite like ~ Thanks for sharing!

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  32. My japanese aunty made this for a dinner party once and it was gobbled up almost immediately because it was one of the only vegetable dishes on the table! Never underestimate vegetables..

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  33. Yum!!! I love spinach Nami! My kids and husband would not eat any… so I sometime buy them just for me! This dish sounds mouthwatering. I love the cooking method, I am sure the veggies will absorb all the flavours of the sauce! Delicious!

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  34. This is something I think we all could use in our new years diets. You always make me want to run out to the store to get those items I don’t have in my pantry. Hope you had a great weekend.
    -Gina-

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  35. Lyn (My Little Messy & Cheeky)

    I’m very lucky to say that I don’t have to face the kiddos and their greens battle for both my girls. They love veggies (except bitter melons) very much and must have at least one type per meal. 😉
    I’m so happy to see more recipes on vegetables in your blog! I don’t have to crack my brain on what and which different flavors to cook my veggies now! Tks for sharing, Nami! 😀

    PS: Hope you are doing fine. We’ve been going out almost EVERYDAY now that it’s still the Lunar New Year. Happy holiday! :)

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  36. I love that you added a FAQ page, great idea! I love spinach salads, and your take looks wonderful. My kids are the same way when it comes to veggies!

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  37. Nami, I do agreed that Japanese way of preparing green leaf veggie sound healthy and less oily.. I think i will imitate your way of preparing veggie and make a twist of adding our local ingredients and seasonings. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    • Thank you RCC! As Japanese spinach and American spinach are a little different (we cannot eat raw spinach in Japan), maybe one in Indonesia also doesn’t require to cook for a long time. Thank you for linking back to me. :-)

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  38. Randy Morin

    Hi Nami,
    My cousin came to visit today and brought Ohitashi with ground sesame seeds on top. Oishii! Can you recommend any dashi mix that doesn’t have ajinomoto in it? We mixed shoyu and mayo as a side condiment to dip the spinach in for serving.

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  39. Hikari

    Hello, I love Japanese foods and I have enjoyed making Japanese foods by following your recipes here :) You have such a great collection of recipes which are easy to follow!
    I just have a question when making this recipe, the spinach got slimey after I blanched and squeezed the water out of it (and I hate slimey foods). Is that normal? Is there anything wrong in the cooking process like blanching it too long (I did it about 1 minute) or squeezing it too hard? Do you have any advice? Thanks alot!

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    • Hi Hikari! Thank you so much for trying my recipes and I’m so glad to hear you like them. :)

      When you over cook spinach, leaves become slimy and make the bitter flavor more prominent. In Japan, spinach is thicker and can’t be eaten raw so we cook longer, but here in the U.S. we just need to take it out as soon as it starts to get wilted. It depends on how much spinach you put it in the pot too (let’s say if you cook small amount, you prob don’t need 1 minute). Next time try to take it out earlier especially if you dislike the slimy spinach. Hope that helps. :)

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  40. Esther S.

    I made this last night and it was as good as I hoped it would be. You really must soak the spinach as instructed. It develops so much flavor from the soaking. I’ve also made your recipe “Spinach Gomaae” and that is my husbands favorite. Very savory. Your recipes are so authentic! Thanks for sharing Nami.
    Btw, your recipe for Tamagoyaki is the BEST!

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    • Hi Esther! Thank you so much for trying this recipe as well as others. I’m glad to hear you enjoy them. :) Thank you for your kind feedback! xo

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    • Hi Genie! Thank you so much for pointing that out. To keep it consistent with other recipes, I put a note saying that prep time does not include 2-3 hours of soaking time. Prep and Cook time is only for active cooking time. Thank you so much for your feedback!

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