Sunday, May 11, 2014

Garlic Mustard Ohitashi

Even though I am a little hung up on Japanese knotweed this time of year, it doesn't mean I forget about my other spring time favorites. Garlic mustard is getting to the stage where I like it best--the flowering stage, where the leaves are large, less-bitter, and very easy to harvest without a whole lot of bending over. Bonus--you are more or less guaranteed to encounter some while hunting for morels, fiddleheads, or ramps.

Ohitashi is a Japanese side dish which apparently means "soaked". It features blanched leafy greens, usually spinach, which are then soaked in Dashi and soy, garnished and served. The treatment enhances the greens with umami. Dashi is traditionally made with kelp and bonito (a fish), but vegan versions with just kelp (kombu dashi) or with shiitake mushrooms (shiitake dashi) can be purchased or homemade. Traditional garnishes include toasted sesame seeds and bonito flakes, I opted to be a bit non-traditional here and use garlic mustard flowers along with the sesame seeds.

For a dramatic presentation, Ohitashi is frequently rolled with a sushi mat into logs or towers, but the "lazy person's" way of just presenting as an attractive stack (the way I did) is just as delish and authentic. However you present it, Japanese side dishes are traditionally served on a separate plate than the main dish.

Of course, you could do this with almost any wild leafy green. Lambsquarters would be a natural fit, since it tastes like a wild spinach; or you could use any of the mustards/cresses, or young dandelion. I think I would avoid nettles, as I am not sure the blanching time would be thorough enough to remove the sting. Same with cleavers, they might still have that "scratchy" feeling.

But if you have tried garlic mustard and not yet enjoyed it, this could be the dish that turns you around. Most of the bitterness is removed by blanching, and what remains is tempered by the salty umami flavors. The natural garlic taste of the leaves enhances everything.
And it's just so pretty!

Garlic Mustard Ohitashi

Serves 4 as a side, can be doubled or tripled

10 cups packed garlic mustard leaves, will cook down a lot
I marinated for about 4 hours

1/2 cup water
2 tsp dry dashi powder, use kombu or shiitake dashi for vegan
2 tbs soy sauce

Optional Garnishes

4-6 garlic mustard flower heads, non-traditional but pretty!
4-6 tbs toasted sesame seeds, or a mix of toasted & black sesame
bonito flakes, I didn't use
  1. Rinse and pick through your garlic mustard. 
    I served it as a side to oven-fried spicy chicken katsu
  2. Bring a large stockpot of lightly salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add your garlic mustard. Blanch for 2-3 minutes. Drain, and run cold water over the greens to stop the cooking.
  3. Make your dashi broth by boiling the water, and adding the powder. Stir to combine.
  4. In a container with a sealing lid, combine your dashi and soy sauce. Add the greens and spread out as much as possible. If needed, add a little cool (but not cold) water, so make sure they are covered.
  5. Allow to soak for at least 1 hour, but 4-7 is better. If you are soaking for over 2 hours, you should soak in the refrigerator, but remove the dish and allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes before serving.
  6. Before serving, drain the greens. If you are forming into towers or logs, I recommend squeezing in cheesecloth to remove excess moisture.
  7. Use a sushi mat to form logs or towers (optional)
  8. Top each portion with your choice of garnishes. I used sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, followed by one of black sesame, then a garlic mustard flowerhead on top.


  1. This spring I feasted on wild mustard greens . Mine looked different than your picture. The leaves resembled arugula and they had a similar flavor. I ate it raw and made oshitashi (this is a variant spelling). I'm Half-Japanese and pointed these out (they were growing in her backyard) to my 83-year Japanese friend and to another older Japanese lady. They were very happy! I love foraging!

  2. I love that you're sharing your love of foraging with others. I don't think most people realize how easy it is to find edibles--literally in the backyard, like for your friend.

    But about the mustard types, there are TONS of different kinds of mustards. Even Cabbage and Broccoli are in the mustard family. At a guess I would say it sounds like you were enjoying winter cress (Barbarea vulgaris) maybe.