Ohitashi (Japanese Blanched Greens With Savory Broth) Recipe (2024)

Why It Works

  • Shocking the blanched greens in ice water instantly stops their cooking and sets their fresh green color and flavor.
  • Very briefly boiling the mirin helps drive off just a bit of its alcohol.

Here's a mystery I'd love someone to help me solve: Why do people like those awful baby spinach leaves so much? You know the ones—they come pre-picked and prewashed, often in plastic clamshells, nearly flavorless and limp. They've also almost entirely supplanted bunches of full-grown spinach in most produce markets. People actually eat that baby stuff in salads and think it's good. How can that be?

What's most unfortunate is that the now-frequently-MIA adult spinach, especially the curly kind, is truly delicious. Granted, it usually comes with a beach's worth of sand still clinging to it, which makes it a pain to wash properly (maybe this is why the pre-washed baby stuff took over?). Point is, we need real spinach back in our lives. Especially for something likeohitashi, the Japanese side dish of blanched greens in a light dashi marinade. Those baby spinach leaves end up squishy and slimy if you so much as blow some hot air in their direction, let alone blanch and marinate them.

When made with spinach, which should be full-grown, ohitashi is calledhorenso noohitashi,horensobeing the word for spinach andohitashireferring to the marinating technique that underlies the dish. Spinach is the version I've seen most often in Japanese restaurants in the United States, and it's very common in Japan, too, but it's not the only option for ohitashi. A lot of different leafy greens can work: beet or turnip greens, Swiss chard, dandelion, bok choy, or even the wild watercress I'm using in the photos here. You can even stretch beyond leafy greens to stalk-y vegetables, like asparagus and green beans. Having so many options is a good thing, considering the unfortunate state of spinach in the US today.

No matter what you use, the method is the same—blanch the vegetables until tender, make the marinade, then let them sit together for a while before serving. It's a great vegetable side to have in your arsenal because it's easy and light and can be made ahead, and it's strikingly delicious, with a savory, gently smoky flavor.

So, the first step: Blanch those vegetables. Just get a pot of salted water boiling, drop them in, and cook them for a minute or two until they're tender. Then transfer them to an ice bath right away—in mytesting on blanching, the single step that had the biggest effect on preserving a vegetable's bright green color and fresh flavor was stopping the cooking instantly in a bowl of ice water.

Meanwhile, for the marinade, I bring some mirin to a simmer, which helps cook off just a bit of its alcohol, then addusukuchi(light) soy sauce, which is lighter in color but saltier in flavor than dark soy sauce. I combine that with a larger quantity of dashi to form a flavorful broth.

For the dashi,homemadeis best, but you can substitute instant if you're in a rush.

Then I squeeze out the excess water from the greens and combine them with the fully cooled marinade, leaving them together in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.

When it's time to serve them, just put the vegetables on a plate, pour some of the marinade on top, and garnish with bonito flakes or sesame seeds. Traditionally, the greens are either arranged neatly lined up in a strip or formed into compressed cylinders, but I kind of like a loosely packed, freeform pile. Whatever the presentation, just...don't use baby spinach.

Ohitashi (Japanese Blanched Greens With Savory Broth) Recipe (2)

October 2017

Recipe Details

Ohitashi (Japanese Blanched Greens With Savory Broth) Recipe

Active20 mins

Total50 mins


  • Kosher salt

  • 1 pound (450g) leafy green vegetables, such as curly spinach, watercress, Swiss chard, turnip or beet greens, or bok choy, washed well (see note)

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml)mirin

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) soy sauce, preferably usukuchi (light) soy sauce

  • 3/4 to 1 cup (175 to 235ml)homemadeor instant dashi

  • Bonito flakes or sesame seeds, for garnish


  1. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. In a medium or large pot of salted boiling water, cook greens until tender, 1 to 2 minutes depending on type. Immediately transfer to prepared ice bath to cool.

    Ohitashi (Japanese Blanched Greens With Savory Broth) Recipe (3)

  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring mirin and soy sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, then remove from heat. Combine soy mixture with 3/4 cup (175ml) dashi. Taste, then add more of remaining dashi if a more dilute flavor is desired. Let cool completely.

  3. Drain greens. Using your hands, wring out as much water from greens as possible, then transfer to a container, pour dashi marinade on top, and toss to coat. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.

    Ohitashi (Japanese Blanched Greens With Savory Broth) Recipe (4)

  4. Arrange greens on a single serving plate or several individual ones; they are often arranged in a neat line, or compressed into a cylinder shape, though loosely mounding them also works. Drizzle some of the dashi marinade on top, then garnish with bonito flakes or sesame seeds. Serve.

    Ohitashi (Japanese Blanched Greens With Savory Broth) Recipe (5)


Many kinds of leafy greens can work here, but make sure to avoid baby spinach, which becomes far too soft and squishy when cooked.

Read More

  • Why You Should Keep Instant Dashi in Your Pantry
  • Sautéed Japanese (Hakurei) Turnips with Turnip Greens
Ohitashi (Japanese Blanched Greens With Savory Broth) Recipe (2024)
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