Bento filler: Spring greens namul (namuru)

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Namul (or namuru as it’s called in Japan) is a very versatile vegetable side dish from Korea. It’s one of the key ingredients of a bibinbap but I make namul much more frequently than I make bibinbap. Various vegetables are quickly boiled or blanched, and then dressed with a simple dressing of sesame oil and salt. It’s a great way to eat a lot of vegetables, since the boiling or blanching shrinks down the mass quite a lot. The compactness makes it a perfect bento side dish. It’s so good for you, but tastes great!

I make namul with all kinds of vegetables, including the most commonly used one, bean sprouts. But at this time of year I like to make it with brightly colored spring greens. The toasty sesame oil dressing is a perfect foil to the bitterness of many of these greens. Here I’ve used three kinds of greens that are easily available to me, but do use whatever you have around where you live. I’ve used the dark green, mildly bitter leaves of a puntarelle or catalogna (which I used to think was cima de rapa), spinach leaves, and lamb’s lettuce (also known as mâche - see more about ithere). If I were in Japan at this time of year I’d use spinach, nanohana, and maybe some komatsuna. I’ve listed some green vegetables that would work below.

Recipe: Spring greens namul (namuru)

  • 2 cups or so of cooked or blanched greens (the uncooked amount depends on what kind of greens you’re using, but in my case I had a small head of puntarelle, about 200 g / 7 oz of spinach, and a big handful of lamb’s lettuce)
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 large garlic clove (see ‘etiquette’ notes!)
  • 1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
  • Optional: pinch of sugar
  • Optional: chili oil (ra-yu)

You can use one kind of green leafy vegetable or several. Wash the leaves well to get rid of any grit and so on. If the leaves have stalky parts, cut them off and slice thinly (as I did here with the puntarelle leaves). Cut the leaves up if necessary.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Put in the leafy parts that take the longest to cook first - in my case I put the puntarelle stems in first. Boil for about 2-3 minutes, then put in the rest. Boil for about 2 minutes or just until the leaves are limp, but not turning into mush! (For tender baby spinach leaves for instance you only need to boil them about 30 seconds.)

Drain well Return to the pot and add cold water, to refresh and cool them. Drain again and squeeze out the moisture well.

Grate the garlic clove on a fine grater, or smash it to a pulp with a knife, or pass it through a garlic press. Mix with the salt and oil. Mix into the well drained and squeezed out greens very well - your hands are the best tools for this. Mix in the sesame seeds. Taste, and adjust the seasoning: if it’s not salty enough, add a little salt; if the greens are bit too bitter for you, add a little bit of sugar. If you want it spicy, add a few drops of chili oil.

You can make this ahead and store it in the refrigerator for up to a couple of days, though no longer - think of it as a salad.

The etiquette question, or OMG it has raw garlic in it

Raw garlic can make you a little pungent, so you can leave it out if you have an important meeting later on, or a hot date, or picky office/classroom mates. It’ll still taste good, though of course it’s better with the garlic. Mixing the grated or mashed garlic with salt does lessen the impact slightly.

Some greens you could use

  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Arugula (rucola/rocket)
  • Pak choy/bok choy
  • Puntarella (catalogna)
  • Komatsuna
  • Mizuna
  • Lamb’s lettuce
  • Dandelion greens (young tender ones)
  • Sprouted broccoli or broccoli rape
  • Dark green lettuce
  • Malabar spinach
  • Pea shoots

You can use the namul dressing for many other vegetables too. Just blanch or boil them enough so they are crisp-tender and not mushy. I’ll post some other namuls as I make them.

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13 comments

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nice and refreshing idea

A simple and stimulating way to cook greens.

Hail to green food

I’ve been making something similar to this for a while now with Onions and Kale! I even used the blanching water to make my rice afterwards and it turned the rice a really neat green that I used to make froggy onigiri (not only that but it retained the lost nutrition in the water and deposited it in the rice). I kind of did a double-take when I read the last post. ^_^

Re: Hail to green food

Suzu_no_miko wrote:

I've been making something similar to this for a while now with Onions and Kale! I even used the blanching water to make my rice afterwards and it turned the rice a really neat green that I used to make froggy onigiri (not only that but it retained the lost nutrition in the water and deposited it in the rice). I kind of did a double-take when I read the last post. ^_^

This is such a great idea! I never thought of this one. Thank you so much! ^_^

I love veggie namul,

I love veggie namul, especially spinach and mung bean sprout namul. Carrots are good too. I’ve never tried it with garlic though, so I’ll have to give that a go.

Question: I’ve been unable to source komatsuna here, is there a good substitute for it? I’ve been using spinach if I run into a recipe calling for komatsuna (mostly because spinach is so readily available), but might be there be something better?

komatsuna substitutes

Spinach is a good substitute. Other ones you can use are the green leafy parts of Swiss chard or pak choy/bok choy. (I did grow them in the garden too..komatsuna is very easy to grow, though some sort of insect that makes tiny holes in the leaves love them!)

This is almost exactly how I

This is almost exactly how I cook greens, except that I wok stir fry/steam them in a tiny bit of sesame oil and water, and then add the sauce and sesame seeds. Is there a marked nutritional or other perhaps ease of cooking difference between stir fry and blanch?

Well it’s just different

Well it’s just different cooking methods, and the results are different in taste and texture. Also it’s more common I think in Japan and Korea to boil or blanch certain vegetables like greens, because that is/was believed to get rid of some of the bitterness in them, especially back in the day when greens were actually more bitter than they are now. Of course stir frying is a common cooking method too.

Yumm!

I just made this for my lunch and it is super yummie!!! It’s uber garlicky and fabulous! I used swiss chard (tho I didn’t have nearly 2cups since I had used part of my bunch previously) and like Suzunomiko I used the left over water to make rice. The rice isn’t done yet…. but I assume I’ll be getting a wonderfully pink rice at the end! :D

it is bibiMbap,

it is bibiMbap, bibiNbap. just thought i would point it out. i use it to put it in rice rolls with nori and other things.

Re: Bento filler: Spring greens namul (namuru)

To any readers in the US, spring greens belong to the same family as collard greens and are close in texture and taste. :)

Re: Bento filler: Spring greens namul (namuru)

Hi, I am quite new to asian food, I wonder if anyone could help me with this: is it normal for the sesame oil to have some sort of bitter-ish aftertaste (sorry, I'm not sure how to describe it)? The one I've got is very mellow, delicate, "sesamey" but then there is this sort of funny aftertaste, maybe to call it bitter is way too much but it is definitely no longer this initial mellowness.
Anyway, I love this site!
Cheers,

Re: Bento filler: Spring greens namul (namuru)

Sesame oil shouldn't have any bitter aftertaste. You may want to try different brands to see what's better. (There can be quite a difference.)

Regarding the garlic...

...I've always found that packing some chocolate-covered coffee beans, or garnishing with parsley and mint (to be eaten after the meal) does wonders for cutting the garlic stench. Both are known to kill the effects of garlic on the breath and the pores; frankly, myself being a garlic-lover, my coworkers have thanked me for it.

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