gomashio

I grew up macrobiotic. I’ll make a point in the coming months to explain more about the meaning and lifestyle and try to debunk many of the myths of it seeming only like a restrictive brown-rice-based-fad-diet (I promise you, it’s not!). While my culinary preferences have evolved to suit our more modern lifestyle, most of what I create in the kitchen is rooted in macrobiotic principles:

  • using great-quality whole-foods,
  • being conscious of seasonal ingredients,
  • choosing real food,
  • eating (and living) for your lifestyle, activity, constitution and condition,
  • being mindful of balance, local, fresh and organic (I know I know, insert trendy-cliché anyone!)

Seriously though, the things that are becoming main-stream conversations and scientific study (such as whole-foods, activity and lifestyle: i.e. what we do and what we eat contributing to health, energy and overall wellbeing) are the things that many traditional lifestyles have been practicing for centuries. While not rocket science, it’s surprisingly not common-sense or household practice to many. It’s exciting there is a shift happening in both interest and understanding on the topic of health, lifestyle and wellness. Even the recent news about Canada’s food guide being revamped to reflect more current recommendations on healthy-living-guidelines is encouraging. We’re coming full circle with our understanding of real-food and whole-food being better than the packaged and processed stuff (I can’t even call it food, because it’s not! ) and even open to plant-based nutrition. For someone like me who grew up being made to feel like a total-weirdo for not drinking cows milk, it’s a wonderful time to be alive. I could go on forever (and trust me I will!) but I digress… back to today’s recipe: Gomashio. Essentially a toasted sesame salt, it is a condiment of Japanese origin.

Condiments are a big part of meals in many cultures and traditions, ours is no acceptation. (Can you say, ketchup!) Some condiments are for flavour but many are also rooted in something more which we often lose touch with — like how various types of pickles (traditionally properly fermented) are part of meals to aid digestion, creamy or sweet sauces are often put on top of spicy curry to mellow the flavour on your palette. In macrobiotic philosophy there are condiments that contribute to overall strength and wellness. Gomashio is one of them. It is a simple sea salt and toasted sesame-seed condiment that traditionally goes on rice. The roasted sesame flavour adds an instant Japanese taste to any dish so we tend to put in on nearly anything in our house. Health wise it’s more balanced than simply adding table salt to your food and adds delicious calcium rich seeds to your meal. (Bioavailable calcium = great for kids. But don’t make it too salty for children!)

Most times I can recommend alternative ways to make traditional items. However with this one I really do recommend trying to make gomashio authentically where it’s created in a suribachi (literally: grinding bowl), a clay textured mortar and pestle which is unglazed on the inside to crush things with a surikogi (literally: grind-powder-wood), which is smooth wooden utensil used to crush food (like sesame seeds) in the suribachi. I have heard people making it in a blender, but trust me, if you want to invest in a really cool Japanese kitchen tool, get yourself a suribachi (see image below).

Plus, making gomashio is a great activity to teach little kids. They love pressing the sesame seeds and going round and round the bowl. It’s basically kid-pretend-game-101 where they stir round and round and round. It may sound silly, but these little methodical activities where our children can be part of things in the kitchen will shape their young brains. Our little one loves to sit on the kitchen stoop (or counter if I let him!) and help. He also thinks it’s great when I get him to taste the toasted sesame seeds. You may get seeds everywhere the first few times (sorry!), but they will get the hang of being your little helper and generally it becomes a calming almost meditative activity for children (I know right?! Magic.)

I make a batch every month or so and it lasts in a jar or shaking-container in the cupboard. It’s a great item to take camping, hiking or travelling too. Delicious on noodles, grain, sandwiches, grillables, salad, whatever you fancy!

Here’s how:

1 t. sea salt

¾ c sesame seeds (preferably organic)

In a cast iron pan roast the salt first so it is completely dry and easily made into a powder when ground in the suribachi. Stir until it’s dry and transfer into suribachi. In a circular motion crush salt into a powder. Add the sesame seeds to the pan and allow to toast while continuously stirring for about 10-15 minutes, until the seeds become golden brown, smell delightfully toasted and begin to crackle. Add the sesame seeds to your salt in the suribachi and continue in a circular motion crushing the sesame seeds as you move round and round. This can be the fun part for kids. Depending on how desiccated you would like the powder, continue this for a few minutes. I like to crack about ½ of the sesame seeds but still leave some whole.

Transfer to a glass jar or shaking-container. Let cool before placing a lid on the container.

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