Whether or not it depends on how you spell the word. Hourensou or HouRenSou. When it is an acronym constructed from the first syllables of three different words, the meaning of course moves away from the original word. This is exactly the case with hourenso, ie with spinach. The most important thing for acronym is to attract attention. The acronym HouRenSou was supposed to emphasize the benefits of the Japanese corporate management system of HoukokuRenrakuSoudan and it worked. It came in the eighties. Houkoku is behind informing about the problem to the superiors, Renraku is behind a more detailed report, which, however, must not express own opinion of the reporter on the solution, and finally Soudan is behind the discussion on how to go about it, in which the subordinate provides additional information and the superior thinks the matter over and posts on higher level of management. The advantage of HouRenSou is that those on the top of the management know everything fast, the little ones know where their place in the hierarchy is, and the whole business is about the effective functioning of the team. HouRenSou is based on good intentions, but the question arises as to whether this management is still so admired in Japan as before. I think it has lost its beauty. The system is slow and expensive, but the most bothering thing is that it does not produce high quality  independent workers. Spinach subordinate, even if he or she comes up with a solution to the problem, will disciplinedly wait until a similar solution comes to the mind of the person in the superior position. Lengthy? Yes, which is why HouRenSou is slowly forgotten in Japan. Maybe good development. But let me express my concern in the connection to the homonyms of HouRenSou and hourensou: “The Japanese also forget about eating spinach.” And this is a true pitty, because spinach is healthy!

I don’t know if I provoked you enough to eat spinach, but to be sure, I’ll stay with spinach a bit longer. SpiNach. This acronym resonates to me in connection with the type of management that some of our politicians are showing us. A pinch (Spi equals Špe špetička in Czech) of pressure (Nach equals Nát nátlak in Czech) and I’ll be president! A pinch to pinch and many don’t know if they came with something on their own or it was imposed on them.  Lie to lie, gossip to gossip, and the truth is lost in translation. We simply have another spinach (hourensou) in the Czech Republic. Moreover, in our lands it is not about the team but about the individual.

The theme of spinach fascinates me. It is also written in my destiny. As a child, my mother forced me to eat spinach, because my parents believed that, like Pepek the sailor, I would have big strength in my muscles and would cope well with my anemia. In the name of my health, my mother was pretty pushy. If my Japanese experience hadn’t freed me from the trauma of spinach, I probably wouldn’t have eaten spinach to this day. No wonder spinach has become a symbolic food associated with the possibility of violence and re-education. Spinach can be made into brownish, disgusting puree, cooked under lid, which I have named “raped spinach”, or a tasty meal, which I celebrate as “free spinach”. I even linked the two types of spinach to compare the communist regime and a free democratic society. The free one is a leaf, and even if it declines a bit with steaming, it still remains green. Spinach is spinach. It is then a proud vegetable that delivers its gifts sincerely and benefitially.

So here we are! I decided to write about spinach today because I wanted to portrate for you a proud spinach.  And with it I wanted to supply you with recipes of  how to prepare spinach in the Japanese way. The basic information is: do not rape your spinach. But that doesn’t mean it’s best to eat only raw spinach. You may put raw baby leaves in your salad, but large leaves and especially the stems can contain a lot of nitrates and it is better to get the nitrates out of the spinach as much as possible. In Japan, they do this by throwing spinach in boiling water and leaving it there just a little bit. The water must not come to bubble again. It is good to work fast to hunt spinach out of the pot. It is best to transfer it to a container with cold water, preferably with ice. You can leave the spinach for a good fifteen minutes in it. Then squeeze it well. I personally dip then the spinach in concentrated dashi broth (even from instant dashi is enough) to get in as much of the basic umami flavor as possible. I leave spinach in the umami bath like „u mámy“ which means „in mom’s hug“, for half an hour. (Umami equals u mámy). Then I squeeze it again to pour out the liquid. It’s not good anymore, but the spinach is good and that’s what it’s all about. The spinach then will become the basis of many amazing delicious dishes. The preparation is called ohitashi. In Miyabi we have been promoting ohitashi from the very beginning. I strongly prefer it to roasting green leaves as it is often done in the Czech cuisine.

I hope you will try one of my recommendations at home. Spinach is a beautiful material which has nothing to do with excersizing pressure. Just add to your ohitashi little of something else, and if you choose a beautiful bowl for it, you will have a great addition to the palette of side dishes to enhance your well-cooked rice. It is not recommended to eat huge quantity of spinach at once, but it is good to eat it often!

Spinach with soy sauce and katsuobushi

There is power in simplicity. Just drip soy sauce into the ohitashi spinach soy and put the katsuo (katsobushi) shavings on top.

Spinach with miso and sesame

Mix ohitashi spinach with quality miso and a little mirin. Add the sesame seeds that you have previously fried dry in a pan. When the seeds start to pop out, they are ready. They smell beautiful and pleasantly strengthen the taste of the food.

Spinach with rubbed tofu – tofu shiroae

Grind fine or medium-fine tofu into a paste and add a little soy sauce, instant dashi and mirin and mix with ohitashi leaves. You can also add strips of konnyak or lightly cooked flavored carrots.

Spinach with tofu and tarako (mentaiko)

You can add pollocks roe to the plain tofu paste and you come out with a classy meal. But watch out for the salinity of the roe. If you don’t have tarako, use another roe. And if you want to skip tofu – it is also nice, just taste ohitashi spinach with a pinch of soy sauce and add for example salmon roe.

Spinach with crushed sesame – horenso gomaae

Crush lightly roasted sesame into a paste (you can also use tahini) and add mirin and a little soy sauce to taste. You can also add a pinch of sugar. Stir the mass into the spinach and if you want more sesame flavor, add a drop of sesame oil.

Spinach with enoki mushroom

Fry the white enoki mushrooms lightly (only really lightly) with butter and add to the spinach ohitashi. Maybe half and half. Enoki are great. Spinach and the taste of butter combine beautifully. You can taste it with soy sauce.

Spinach with nori seaweed

You can fine-tune the ohitashi flavored with soy sauce with cut strips of nori seaweed. It is best to put the nori on top so that they make a nice decoration.

Spinach with karashi mustard

Mix a bit of karashi with ohitashi (be careful, it is quite sharp). You can enrich this salad with fried pieces of bacon. The Japanese like to add even small sausages. They love them.

Spinach with shiso leaf dressing

Ohitashi goes well with dressing from dashi, soy sauce and chopped shiso leaves. You can also add katsuobushi on top. If you want to enrich your salad, add heat-treated shrimps or white fish.

As I am listing my beloved small dishes from spinach, I cannot resist thinking about other new combinations. I’m looking forward to try them. Cooking is an adventure! You don’t have to report, explain or consult anything to anyone while cooking. Only if you want to. You don’t have to persuade anyone by pinches of pressure and you don’t have to lie. You just freely get involved and engaged with your ingredients. And you may get surprised how great discoveries you make. So go ahead! Good luck!

I wish you a sincere and pleasant friendship with spinach which will remain green in your hands.

Yours, Miyabi Darja

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