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TAKE A PEEK INTO JAPANESE PANTRY: SESAME SEEDS 101

TAKE A PEEK INTO JAPANESE PANTRY: SESAME SEEDS 101 Food & Recipes

The sesame plant likely originated in East Africa and spread out throughout ancient Egypt, Europe, and Asia. The sesame seeds have the fact that they were used at least 5,000 years ago in China.

In Japan, they were already used at least B.C.1200 and probably had been introduced from China.

Around 710, sesame oil was produced for cooking, then, sesame seeds were used around 1300 since mortars were introduced from China to Japan.

Since then, there have been Japanese cuisine made with sesame seeds such as grilled fish or meat with sesame coating, goma-ae salad, and tofu made with sesame paste.

Sesame played a role in supporting the Japanese diet as an essential protein source, especially for Buddhists who did not eat meat.

Thus, sesame seeds as well as sesame oil have been deeply related to Japanese life for thousands of years, today, it is the top common pantry ingredient.

Moreover, sesame seeds and sesame oil bring nutritious values to our bodies and flavorful ingredients to add to the dishes.

COLORS OF SESAME SEEDS

In Japan, there are three types of sesame seeds divided by the colors, yes, it’s three: White, black, and gold.

There are various types of sesame seeds in terms of shape, and size, and there are about 3,000 types while classified in detail further.

White sesame seeds

White sesame seeds have a whitish and thinner hull than black sesame seeds. These characteristics are related to nutritional values. Compared to black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds contain more lipids (linoleic acid and oleic acid) and sesamin.

White sesame seeds have a slightly sweet flavor and mildly nutty flavor so they are used in a wide variety of dishes.

Black sesame seeds

Black sesame seed is a thick black hull as you see and contains more polyphenols and calcium than white sesame seeds.

Also, it contains anthocyanin, a kind of polyphenol, which can be expected to have an antioxidant effect.

Anthocyanin is a nutrient that helps improve eye function.

Black sesame seed is more aromatic and has a strong nutty flavor. So it is often used for making sweets such as cookies and pudding.

GOLDEN SESAME SEEDS

As the name suggested, golden sesame seeds are gold, but it is shiny yellow.

Shiny yellow sesame seeds are called “KINGOMA” in Japan and are known for top-shelf luxury sesame seeds often used for KAISEKI cuisine.

“KIN” means “gold” and “Goma” means “sesame seeds” in Japanese.

Compared to white or black sesame seeds, KINGOMA has a rich oily flavor with a luxury sesame aroma.
It takes time and effort to produce and harvest, so the price is also a “luxury”.

For more information, jump to this post!

TYPES OF SESAME SEED PRODUCTS

Generally, there are three types of sesame seed products, grounded, and pasted.

Carefully selected sesame seeds are cleaned and go processed to be toasted, dried, and pasted.

Washed sesame seeds called “raw sesame seeds” are not cooked.

Ground sesame seeds are made from ground toasted sesame seeds, and sesame paste is ground sesame and made into a paste.

Roasted sesame, ground sesame, and sesame paste are different in terms of processing methods, but there is no big difference in nutrition.

RAW SESAME SEEDS

You may try to take sesame seeds raw, but, it is hard to absorb the nutrients from sesame seeds to the body since the sesame seeds are small, which is difficult to bite them.

Moreover, the hull of sesame seeds is kind of hard and thick so they will be excreted without being digested.

It is better to choose unhulled or grated when you want to use raw sesame seeds.

Anyway, sesame seeds will be more flavourful when they are toasted or cooked to eat.

TOASTED SESAME SEEDS

Toasted sesame seeds are called “Iri-Goma” in Japanese, with hulled and unhulled.

Toasted sesame seeds are literally toasted until fragrant.

You can enjoy the snappy texture and nutty sesame flavor that pops out every time you bite.

Toasted sesame seeds, which have a popping texture, are perfect as a topping for cooking.

However, the hull of sesame seed is hard, so it does not break down even in the stomach as I said.

In case you want to buy sesame seeds with the point of nutrition absorption, choose unhulled toasted sesame seeds or ground.

Unhulled sesame seeds make it easier to absorb nutrients yet the aroma and flavor are not rich compared with hulled toasted sesame seeds.

Also, the fiber value is decreased.
However, the mild sesame flavor will help the dish or sweets that you don’t want to strong sesame flavor.

When you want to toast sesame seeds at home, it is best to use a skillet over medium-low heat. Sesame contains a lot of oil and burns easily, so please transfer sesame seeds to another bowl or platter as soon as it is toasted.

GROUND SESAME SEEDS

Ground sesame seeds called “SURIGOMA” in Japan are made by grinding toasted sesame seeds.

Grinding toasted sesame seeds increases the aroma and flavor besides the hard hull is ground.

It is the better way to take sesame seeds for our body to absorb nutrition including the rich fiber of the hull, however, it is easily oxidized and is not suitable for long-term storage.

Consume ground sesame seeds within 3 weeks after opening the package.

It is surely easy to get ground sesame seed product, yet, ground toasted sesame seeds yourself each time to use is better rather than oxidized ground sesame seeds if you don’t plan to use them sooner.

Grinding the roasted sesame finely will bring out the aroma and flavor of the sesame, contrary, the snappy texture of the hull will be gone so you’ll need to find the grinding level for just what you like.

 *Plastic Sesame Grinder

SURIBACHI & SURIKOGI

For centuries, this iconic mortar called SURIBACI” (or SURIKOBACHI) has been an essential tool for home cooking in Japan.

 A Japanese-style mortar and pestle.

A suribachi is a ceramic bowl with fine radial shallow grooves on the inner wall and is mainly used for grinding or mashing grains, vegetables such as Japanese yams, and miso paste with
using a rod called “surikogi”.

Although modern technologies that make cooking easier like an electric grinder or food processor have been taking over the suribachi and surikogi that used to be essential, these unique classic utensils are now being revival while attracting efficient kitchen tools as well as the iconic beautiful ceramic work.

SESAME PASTE (TAHINI VS NERIGOMA)

I believe, the most famous sesame paste is tahini often used in Mediterranean cooking, and it is often used in Japanese cooking as well despite we call it a different term.

Yet, there is a little (a big?) difference between tahini and Japanese sesame paste called NERIGOMA.

Generally, NERIGOMA is made from toasted sesame seeds, on the other hand, tahini is made from raw sesame seeds.

Vitamins and polyphenols contained in sesame seeds are sensitive to heating, and fatty acids are also oxidized, so tahini has a higher nutritional value than NERIGOMA.

The sesame paste made from toasted sesame seeds has a darker color, while tahini has a cream-white color.

Since NERIGOMA is made from toasted sesame seeds, the paste has a strong sesame flavor and a fragrant aroma, while tahini has a less fragrant aroma, but a rich raw sesame seed flavor.

Both tahini and NERIGOMA can be used as substitutes, and tahini can be used for sesame dressing or sesame sauce instead of sesame paste. However, when using sesame paste in a dish as a substitute for tahini, mix white sesame paste with olive oil.

ABOUT THE HEALTH BENEFITS

The main nutrients contained in sesame seeds are lipids (approximately 50-55%), protein (approximately 20%), and carbohydrates (approximately 18%), besides, minerals such as iron, calcium, B vitamins, and dietary fiber are contained.

Linoleic acid and oleic acid are expected to work to prevent arteriosclerosis and obesity and to lower blood cholesterol.

Furthermore, not only those lipids and sesamin, this small nutty seed is packed with nutrition and you may want to incorporate sesame seeds more in your life.

This post dives into the health benefits of sesame seeds if you want to read next.

HOW TO STORE SESAME SEEDS

Sesame seeds can be stored at room temperature before and after opening the package without any problem.

Store sesame seeds in an airtight food storage container and place the container in a dark dry cool place while avoiding direct sunlight.

You can store the sesame seeds in the refrigerator or freezer, but please be aware that they will easily get damp when taken out of the refrigerator or freezer.

Also, sesame paste (tahini or NERIGOMA) can be stored at room temperature in where dark dry cool place before and after unpackaging.

You can store the sesame paste in a fridge, however, the paste will be chilled and hard to mix.

Indeed, condensation due to the temperature difference when taken out of the refrigerator may cause mold, so we recommend storing it in a cool place at room temperature and out of the sun.

LEARN ABOUT SESAME OIL

THE BENEFITS OF SESAME OIL: NUTRITION, HEALTH BENEFITS, SIDE EFFECTS, HOW TO USE IN COOKING

Sesame oil has been incorporated into the Japanese lifestyle for a long time like in other Asian countries. Sesame oil is known as one healthy oil that we should take daily and the Japanese often use it in cooking. Besides, we are addicted to the rich toasty nutty aroma of toasted sesame oil. Or, the elegant light white sesame oil, is used for cooking, dressing, even massage, and skincare. This post will tell you the types of sesame oil, their health benefits, and how to incorporate it into your lifestyle.

CHECK OUT THE ULTIMATE GUIDE

SESAME SEED JAPANESE RECIPE IDEAS

Find here the best sesame seeds recipes (vegetarian & non-vegetarian) like sesame-crusted ahi tuna & many more.

Sesame-crusted Ahi tuna With Authentic Teriyaki sauce

Ahi tuna is high in protein, low in fat, technically healthy, and very easy to cook. Learn the secret to preparing tuna to cut off the fishy taste and pull out the Umami flavor for a sesame-crusted seared tuna steak. It may seem fancy like the dinner for holidays, date nights, and special occasions, but honestly, it’s very easy, simple, and tasty, and both best parts, ahi tuna and authentic! Japanese Teriyaki sauce is a ridiculously savory combination! Only the effort you may need is to make Teriyaki sauce and Japanese citrus chili paste in advance.

*RECIPE

Pressed Sushi With Misozuke Avocado

“Pressed sushi” called Oshizushi is a traditional type of sushi, which made by pressing sushi rice and ingredients in a container. Aesthetic, this block-shaped sushi can be an eye-catching dish at a party. Moreover, it is effortless, and super-easy to make even if you’ve never tried making sushi. Since this recipe uses Misozuke avocado and cream cheese, I skip seasoning the sushi rice. You can make 8 cubed pressed sushi.

*RECIPE

EASY MISO & Peanut Butter SALAD DRESSING

Here is an easy Asian salad dressing (or can be a savory dipping sauce) which packed with umami flavor: this tasty Miso or sesame Dressing is perfect for an all-purpose dressing: combine miso paste with honey and toasted sesame oil, oh, yum! It works wonders on salads, grilled chicken, or drizzled on fish or bowl meals.

*RECIPE

SHOYU POKE SOBA NOODLE BOWL

Absolutely easy delicious Hawaiian poke with sharp dark sosy sauce flavor, packed with umami and toasted sesame oil. Simply combine diced ahi tuna, chives, and toasted sesame seeds into this easy homemade poke sauce aka Asian dressing. Marinate ahi tuna in the sauce for 10 minutes, which brings non-fishy but aromatic Asian-flavored tuna. This time, soba noodles go with Shoyu ahi tina, but you can switch to sushi rice, udon noodles, somen noodles, or rice noodles.

*RECIPE

YAKINIKU SALAD BOWL

Thinly sliced beef steak marinated in my homemade YAKINIKU sauce! Tender, sweet, yummy steak topped on noodles, cucumbers, carrots, and your choice of leafy greens. Adding Asian sweet chili sauce brings extra Asian flavors. This meal salad recipe is definitely flavorful and filling.

*RECIPE

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