Gomasio is a dry Japanese condiment made out of a simple but tasty combination of toasted sesame seeds (goma) and salt (sio). I first encountered this ubiquitous asian seasoning the first time I had Japanese food during an after-school language and culture class when I was eleven or so. As a young adult in college, I bought it at great expense from my local food co-op, and parceled it out carefully to top my stir-fries and add a little extra flavor to soups.
Sadly, by the time I purchased my pricey little bottle of gomasio, the oil in the sesame seeds had often gone rancid- not only does this spoil the taste, it also renders many of the real nutritional benefits of this humble condiment null and void. Being the type of gal who likes to figure things out, it wasn’t long before I was rifling through my friends’ macrobiotic cookbooks for Gomasio “recipes” to try- of course I found several; ranging from complicated brining of the seeds to simple traditional-style recipes. Because I’m a general believer in the scientific method, I tested about four different ways of making the sesame-salt combo before settling on the one I preferred. Because I found the procedure simple and the result superior, I chose a more traditional method of making gomasio that requites a bit of specialized (but useful) equipment- a suribachi- a type of ceramic mortar-and-pestle with grooved sides (seen in the photographs). Suribachi can be purchased at many natural food stores and asian markets (or online- just do a Google search), and are useful for all sorts of other basic kitchen tasks from grinding spices to making breadcrumbs. If you don’t have a suribachi you can use a regular mortar-and-pestle, or even a small deep mixing bowl and wooden spoon with good results (though it will certainly take a bit longer to make the gomasio this way).
Let’s get it Started!
Easy Homemade Gomasio
1/4 cup plain, un-hulled sesame seeds
2 teaspoons coarse salt ( sea salt, Himalayan salt, or kosher salt)
Making gomasio requires the toasted sesame seeds to be combined with the salt while they’re still warm, so the first task is to toast them. My favorite method is to put a heavy cast-iron skillet on the stove-top, heat the dry pan to a medium heat, and then spread about 1/4 cup of sesame seeds out in a single layer. Remember to top the pan with a (clean) splatter-screen or you’ll soon have sesame seeds jumping out all over the place. Set your kitchen timer to about two minutes, and keep your ears peeled for popping noises. The sesame seeds are small, and so they’ll heat really quickly- as they begin to toast, the seeds will start to jump in the pan, until it sounds like a mini-popcorn-popper.
Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the hot, toasted sesame seeds directly into the suribachi. Top with about 2 teaspoons of coarse salt (I usually use sea salt, but today all I had in the cupboard was some kosher salt, so that’s what went in the mix).
A Japanese suribachi has steeply slanted sides, and so as long as you move the wooden pestle gently, the mixture should stay in the base of the mortar ( bowl portion). For the most part. I use gentle spiraling circles of the pestle to work the salt and sesame together until they resemble a coarse, dry, “crumble”, but you’ll have to try it with your own equipment to find out what motion works best for you.
I like a few of the sesame seeds to be left whole in my garnish, so I stop when I’ve reached that stage. Others may prefer a smoother consistency, and will want to work the mixture a bit more until all of the sesame seeds are crushed and coated with an even layer of salt. Experiment until you find a formula that works for you. If you find my mix too salty, simply decrease the ratio of salt to sesame. 1:10 is pretty common, and some macrobiotic cookbooks even recommend a 1:18 ratio.
When I’m done, I like to spoon my homemade gomasio into this nifty glass shaker I discovered in a thrift store some years back & stash it in the cabinet for daily use.
You could also easily re-purpose another shaker-jar, or just pass Homemade Gomasio at the table in a small decorative dish with a spoon for sprinkling. If you plan to keep this seasoning more than a week, store it in a tightly sealed glass jar in the fridge to keep the oils fresh. Enjoy!