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Savoury, buttery and full of umami! Try this sautéed spinach and bacon at home

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 9 — We humans are often a study in contrasts.

We say we want to get back to Nature but when we do, we are stuck to our smart devices, scrolling endlessly. We say we like to add more colour to our lives but we dress in safe monochrome: black, grey and white.

We say we want to eat more healthily, more greens and fibre, but we truly crave the more hedonistic flavours — salt and sugar; cream, butter and fat.

Here’s some good news: Contrasts, if we live long enough and earn enough wisdom along the way, don’t have to be contradictory nor mutually exclusive.

In fact, contrasting concepts can even be complementary.

I am thinking of this as I dish up a plate of my favourite Japanese appetiser or side dish: sautéed spinach and bacon, or better known in Japan as horenso bekon.

The healthy part comes from the spinach (which is horenso in Japanese), full of vitamins and minerals. The more decadent portion is courtesy of the bacon — and some butter to bring it altogether.

A quick stir fry does it: Leafy greens such as spinach are best sautéed.
A quick stir fry does it: Leafy greens such as spinach are best sautéed.

A quick stir fry does it: Leafy greens such as spinach are best sautéed.

Nothing could be simpler. A quick stir fry does it as leafy greens such as spinach are best sautéed. Bacon adds a flavourful, meaty component to the dish.

Consider this a sort of yin-yang dish — a little bit of indulgence and a little bit of salubrity. Healthy, hedonistic and tasty enough to wish you had cooked more!

Horenso bekon (Sautéed Spinach & Bacon)

Remember Popeye? There is a reason why the muscled sailor tosses back can after can of spinach.

Spinach is now considered a superfood as it’s extremely nutrient dense. These leafy vegetables are high in carotenoids, vitamins C and K1, folic acid, iron and calcium.

Bacon adds a flavourful, meaty component to the dish.
Bacon adds a flavourful, meaty component to the dish.

Bacon adds a flavourful, meaty component to the dish.

Low in calories and carbohydrates whilst being high in dietary fibre means it’s also the perfect food for someone on a diet. (Though the inclusion of bacon and butter might cancel out some of these benefits... taste comes first though, no?)

If you can, look for baby spinach, which is sweeter and less likely to be fibrous. When sautéed with butter and garlic, these greens shine — not with grease but aromatic fats.

Enoki mushrooms provide some textural contrast to the spinach and bacon. Also, any form of edible fungi taste amazing when sautéed with butter.

Enoki mushrooms provide some textural contrast.
Enoki mushrooms provide some textural contrast.

Enoki mushrooms provide some textural contrast.

For the rice wine, use any suitable cooking rice wine such as Japanese sake or Shaoxing wine. Both works well though the sake will be more appropriate.

Finally, the secret to making the sauce for this horenso bekon creamier: a splash of goma dare or bottled Japanese sesame sauce. This is entirely optional and should be added at the end after the cooking is done.

Try it and taste the difference for yourself. Expect a dish that is equal parts savoury, buttery and full of umami.

Ingredients

3 strips of bacon, sliced into roughly 1 cm slices

2 cloves garlic, minced

100g enoki mushrooms

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

A generous pat of butter

400g spinach or baby spinach

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon rice wine

½ teaspoon goma dare (Japanese sesame sauce)

Method

Add the sliced bacon to the pan and turn the heat up to medium. No oil is necessary as the bacon will begin to render its fat.

Allow the sliced bacon to crisp up, stirring the pan occasionally, before transferring the crispy bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.

The secret to making the sauce creamier: a splash of 'goma dare' (Japanese sesame sauce).
The secret to making the sauce creamier: a splash of 'goma dare' (Japanese sesame sauce).

The secret to making the sauce creamier: a splash of 'goma dare' (Japanese sesame sauce).

Leave the rendered bacon fat in the pan. Turn the heat down to low and add the minced garlic. Sauté for about 1 minute until the garlic has softened and is aromatic but not browned.

Next add the enoki mushrooms into the pan. Season with the sea salt and black pepper; the salt will draw moisture out of the mushrooms.

Once enough of the mushroom liquid has evaporated, add some butter to prevent any burnt bits. When the butter has melted, you may add the spinach.

Savoury, buttery and full of umami!
Savoury, buttery and full of umami!

Savoury, buttery and full of umami!

Stir it with the spatula to allow the leaves to wilt quickly. This won’t take more than a few minutes. Season with soy sauce and rice wine. Continue to sauté until all the alcohol has evaporated.

To finish, add the Japanese sesame sauce after turning the heat off. Stir it in to mix well. Plate immediately and serve whilst hot.

For more Weekend Kitchen and other slice-of-life stories, visit lifeforbeginners.com.