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Bento Recipes: Ohitashi


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Spinach sushi?Ohitashi is variously described as Japanese boiled spinach salad, boiled & soy-soaked greens, and other variations on the same basic theme.

What you need:

    A pound of fresh spinach, well cleaned. Young spinach is preferable.
    2 tbsp of soy sauce (if desired)
    2 tbsp of water (if desired)
    Sesame seeds or other condiments to taste

Bring some water to a boil. Hold the bunch of spinach by the leaves, and dunk it the stemmy end into the boiling water. Hold it there for about half a minute, then push the spinach all the way into the water. Boil it until the stems soften, but not until the spinach turns into mush; about 2 minutes.

Drain the spinach and rinse with cold water until it's cool enough to handle. Squeeze the spinach into an orange-sized ball, then squeeze some more to get all the water you can out of it. Put the ball into a bowl, mix the water and soy sauce, and pour that over the spinach ball. Let the foliage sit for 10 or so minutes. Then squeeze out the excess moisture, gently pull the ball apart, and find four large, wide leaves. Set these aside; you'll use them as wrappers.

Separate the spinach well enough that you can line up the leaves. Put down one of the large leaves you separated out and spread the leafy part out. Put down the other one on top of the first with the stem pointing in the opposite direction, so it's on top of the first one's leaf, and spread out its leaf similarly. Now lay out the rest of the spinach leaves on top of the first two, but don't spread out the leaves; instead, make a kind of log shape the length of the spinach leaves. Have some stems on one side and some stems on the other. When you've got them all in place squeeze them together, then roll them in the first two leaves. Set out the other two leaves you set aside, unfolding them on top of the log, stems pointing in opposite directions, then roll the log up so it has another layer of leaf wrapper.

Now take a very sharp, nonserrated knife - a sushi knife works for me - and cut this into cylinders about an inch long. Set these upright and sprinkle with sesame seeds or serve with any other condiment you like.

A note: This is the "proper" recipe, and I liked it well enough, but for myself I make it without the soy sauce and serve it with mayonnaise topping. This may render the recipe as inauthentic as my vinegar-less sushi, but in a contest between authenticity and taste, taste wins!

I've made this with other greens too - collards, mustard greens, kale, et cetera. It's a good way to package greens so it'll be easy to eat neatly with chopsticks.