This simple Korean side dish (Sigeumchi-namul) made with fresh spinach and seasoned with Korean fermented bean paste (Doenjang) is great with spicy foods or kimbap.
Banchan refers to Korean side dishes. Today's recipe for Spinach is a namul. Namul is still a banchan but is made from grass or leaves. Traditionally namul would have been made from what was freshly cut in the garden or found when foraging in the mountains. Mature spinach works great for this method of cooking.
Baby spinach is just that; it is very young spinach. It's great in salads but loses a lot of its flavor and texture when blanched. Mature spinach in early spring and late fall is the best spinach to use. Spinach grown in the heat of summer will work but tends to be a little bitter.
You do not have to stick with just spinach; other leafy greens also work. Feel free to experiment.
We will season or dish with the following.
Toasted sesame oil. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way.
Korean bean paste or Doenjang. This will give the dish a nice deep, somewhat salty flavor. This one has a concise ingredient list and no seafood. If you like me and suffer from gout, read the labels. Some have shellfish.
Green onions. They should be very finely chopped.
Garlic. Fresh is best but I also use the stuff out of the jar. Either way it should also be very finelychopped.
Sesame seeds. The toased kind.
Before cooking, give your spinach a good wash (this is the hardest part). Spinach is usually grown in sandy soil, and we do not want to serve gritty spinach. Cut off any roots and remove any ugly leaves. Next, give the spinach a good rinse under cool running water. Fill a large bowl with cool water, add the spinach and gently stir it around to help remove sand or dirt. The sand should sink to the bottom of the bowl.
Let the spinach soak for a few minutes, then gently remove it from the bowl and place it into a colander. If you see sand or dirt in the bottom of the bowl, repeat until all of the sand is removed. If you do not see sand, give it one more rinse under running water to make sure all of the sand is gone.
After washing the spinach, it is time to blanch the spinach. Bring a large pot of water up to a rapid boil. While the water is heating up, prepare a large bowl of ice water and have it within arm's reach of the stove.
Dump the spinach into the boiling water and immediately start stirring. This brings all of the spinach into contact with hot water for even cooking. As the spinach starts to cook, it will quickly reduce in size. All that you really want to do is soften the spinach. This should take about thirty seconds.
Immediately remove the spinach and place it into the ice water. Let it cool completely.
After the spinach has had a chance to cool (it does cool quickly), remove it from the bowl and place it into a colander. After most of the water has drained off, please pick up a small amount of spinach, and give it a good squeeze. You want to remove most of the excess moisture. When most of the moisture has been removed, you will have a small ball of spinach. You can place this into a bowl.
Keep repeating until you have squeezed out the excess moisture from all of the spinach. It would be best if you now had a few balls of spinach in your bowl.
Now that you're ready to season your spinach break apart the small balls and spread out the spinach. Add your seasoning mix. Prepare your seasoning mixture to add the sesame oil, fermented bean paste, green onion, and garlic; give it a good mix and add to the spinach.
The poor spinach has been a wash, boiled, dumped into ice water, then had the crap squeezed out of it. It is now time to treat the poor spinach to a massage. Gently massage in the seasoning mix, ensuring that it is evenly distributed. I highly recommend wearing gloves for this unless you like your hands to smell like garlic.
Now it's time to salt your namul sprinkle on a little salt, mix, and taste. Continue to do this until you are happy with the taste of the dish. How much salt to add will depend upon your taste buds and the Doenjang brand that you use.
When you're happy with it, add some sesame seeds your namul is now ready to serve. And would go perfectly with Korean spicy grilled pork.
This is what the dish looked like when I was finished. The namul will keep for a few days in the fridge. But at my house, it never lasts that long.
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- 2 bunches spinach
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon Korean bean paste Doenjang
- 2 Tablespoons Green onions
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon Sesame seeds
- 1 pinch salt
- To a small bowl add the sesame oil, doenjang, green onion, garlic, give this a good mix and set aside.
Blanch the spinach
- Wash the spinach
- Bring a pot of water to boil and prepare a bowl of ice water.
- Dump the spinach into the boiling water and immediately start stirring. Cook for 30 seconds.
- Immediately remove the spinach and place it into the ice water. Let cool completely
Prepare the namul
- Working in small batches squeeze the water out of the spinach.
- Break apart the spinach, add the seasoning mixture and massage in.
- Taste the dish and adjust with salt.
- Season with sesame seeds.