Black sesame paste is a favourite ingredient in Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian cuisines because it enhances the flavours of many dishes. The humble seed, called kurogoma (黒ごま) Japanese, is an ancient spice that has been a part of Japanese and Chinese cultures for at least 5,000 years.
It began trending in Western restaurants about a decade ago. Chefs discovered its versatility and how much their customers loved its taste.
What is Black Sesame?
When most people think about sesame, images of tiny white seeds sprinkled on bagels or ground into tangy tahini will come to mind. But black sesame? If you haven't heard of it, don't worry, because until a few years ago, most of the Western world didn't know about it either.
The oils in the dark coloured grains are nutrient-dense and are high in antioxidants that prevent or slow damage to the body's cells. As a result, they are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and rich dietary fibre. That's a lot of power packed into a tiny seed.
Kurogoma plays a significant role in Japanese and Chinese folklore and traditional medicine. In addition, the soot from sesame oil lamps was an ingredient in the stick ink that created ancient Chinese calligraphic works of art. Some of these magnificent murals have survived to today.
This versatile seed continues to be integral to traditional medicine. It's in cures for ailments such as dizziness, high blood pressure, tinnitus, and even grey hair!
Kurogoma has a more potent and nuttier flavour than its white sesame cousin. The kurogoma seed is also crunchy because its outer hull is intact, unlike the white sesame seed.
As a result, black sesame paste recipes will have slight bitter undertones and bold, earthy flavours. Its diverse flavour profile allows it to be a part of sweet and savoury dishes.
Kurogoma paste uses are limited only by your imagination. For example, Japanese chefs use it in baked and steamed desserts such as cakes, pudding, and dumplings. You can even find it in delicious ice cream!
A delightful use for this paste is in a Chinese black sesame soup dish. This soup is consumed for breakfast, after meals, or for teatime. Alternatively, the Chinese use it as filling for traditional Chinese desserts like tang yuan and mooncakes.
If you're crunched for time and looking for a way to impress dinner guests, a straightforward dessert is black sesame pudding. It's a perfect way to end a meal with friends and family or a comforting treat after a busy day.
Whether you're planning on whipping up a dessert on the stovetop, in a steamer, or using black sesame paste for baking, you're going to need to start with the vital ingredient.
While you can buy this unique dessert filling from Asian markets, some grocery stores, and online, it isn't tricky to make.
Your best bet for purchasing the seeds themselves is at a Japanese or Chinese market. Some larger grocery stores will stock them in their international aisles, but it's not common.
High-quality seeds will be fleshier, so make sure that they are not flat and thin when you're purchasing some. There are only two simple ingredients in black sesame paste:
- Black sesame seeds
- Honey (for sweet), or;
- Sesame oil (for savoury)
Using a blender or food processor makes grinding the sesame seeds quick. But cooking and preparing food is often a meditative experience for the cook. If you appreciate tradition, you can also use a mortar and pestle.
The traditional Japanese mortar and pestle are called the Suribachi and Surikogi. The beauty of this recipe is not only that it's simple, but you won't need a lot of kitchen tools.
How to store
You can store black sesame paste in the fridge, in a covered container, for up to a month. If you'd like to keep the paste for a longer period, place it in the freezer. It will be good for up to half a year. Whether stored in the fridge or the freezer, bring it up to room temperature and stir it before using it.
Black Sesame Paste Recipe
Black Sesame Paste for sweet dishes:
- ½ cup black sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon honey
Black sesame paste for savoury dishes:
- ½ cup black sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
- Pour the seeds into an ungreased pan. Roast them over medium heat until there is a solid nutty, sesame aroma. Sesame seeds burn easily, so stir frequently and keep a close eye on the pan.
- Put the roasted seeds into the blender or food processor and begin grinding. When you notice the seeds start to release their oils, pause the grinding. Scrape the seeds from the sides and the bottom of the blender or processor and then begin grinding again. Repeat this 2 to 3 times.
- When the seeds are finely ground and moist from the natural oils, add the honey or sesame oil and process again to combine the ingredients.
- Process until the seeds and honey or oil are pasty and slightly liquid. Pour your kurogoma seed paste into a clean, sterilized jar.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
Check out HACHI Channel's video recipe below if you want to see how a Japanese chef prepares the black sesame paste recipe. He adds butter in his recipe to provide that additional buttery flavour and texture to the dessert filling.
Congratulations! You now have your own homemade kurogoma paste ready to use in any number of Japanese, Chinese, or other Asian dishes!
If you liked this recipe, don't forget to share with us your masterpiece by tagging us on Instagram @honestfoodtalks!
Next up, learn how to make lotus seed paste!