After visiting friends in the Bay Area last fall and being introduced to and discovering that I love Korean home-cooking, folk music, and bar food, I came home vowing to learn more. A gifted Korean cookbook happened next, and now I’m finally getting around to trying my hand at a few dishes.
Ingredients are not all equal. While visiting these friends in Berkeley I was treated to fresh sesame seeds, sesame oil, and red chili paste that were grown on Taehyun’s uncle’s farm in Korea and then processed into oil and paste at their local grocery store (wow–we don’t have grocery stores like that here!) and brought over to the U.S. by his mother. What an incredible gift delivered! And what a treat it was to taste freshness that we normally don’t experience here.
Many recipes call for “Sesame Salt”, and after making it I think it deserves a large moment of its own. I hope to post more about my endeavors but will start with this basic condiment. Sesame Salt (or gomasio in Japanese) can be set on the table for people to add on their own, or sprinkled over almost anything— rice, salads, greens, vegetables and meats.
Sesame seeds, native to both Africa and India, are one of the oldest crops grown for oils, yielding high amounts of oil with a sweet nutty flavor. Sesamum indicum is grown in hot, dry climates and recently the state of Oklahoma in the U.S. began sesame cultivation because of its drought resistant qualities. The tiny seeds grow in little pods (that I think look like miniature okra) and are either dried or pressed into oil and which are both used in cuisines around the world.
Salt is a deceptively simple sounding ingredient but there is of course an entire world within the choices of salt. Check out more about it at this Foodal site. I used Himalayan Pink Salt for this because I have it on hand.
These are brown sesame seeds so were already a light brown before toasting, this color would be too dark if you were starting with the white seeds. Be careful not to burn the seeds—once the oil inside is hot things happen quickly and a burnt sesame seed is a bitter and not terribly fun experience. I used a spice/coffee grinder to grind—be careful not to turn them into tahini!
Can two ingredients be called a recipe? Yep.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 4-6 minutes
Toast lightly on the stovetop in a cast iron or heavy skillet:
1/4 cup Sesame Seeds
Remove from heat when they begin to turn light brown and smell delicious. They burn easily so don’t walk away…
1 – 3 teaspoons Korean Sea Salt, Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, or Real Salt
Grind using a spice grinder, blender, salt mill, or mortar and pestle.
Store in a tightly sealing jar, do not refrigerate.
- Sautéed Greens
- Baked Potatoes or Yams
For more about the fascinating history and impact of this crucial but now commonplace condiment read Mike Kurlansky’s book “Salt“.
“Pick up a sesame seed but lose sight of a watermelon.”