The spinach salad you’ll find just about anywhere in China

Society & Culture

This weekly food column is done in collaboration with the Beijing-based project and event company The Hutong. Registration is now open for their Shanghai Summer Adventures, a series of summer camp programs.

Spinach Salad with Peanut

果仁菠菜 guǒrén bōcài

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), spring is the season of activity and upward energy, a time of stirring after the cold of winter. Just as the trees and shrubs start budding with the onset of spring, our bodies start awakening.

In Chinese cooking, spinach is believed to have moisturizing properties and to nourish one’s liver and blood. Meanwhile, peanuts are believed to be good for the stomach and spleen. Combined, they make for the perfect springtime appetizer.



(Serves 4)

  • 750 g spinach
  • 200 g roasted/fried peanuts (roasted in the oven or in a wok without oil)
  • cloves garlic
  • 1-2 dried chili peppers (you can use mustard seed oil instead of frying the chili peppers in oil)
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp dark vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar, or sugar according to taste
  • 1 tsp salt, or salt according to taste
  • 1-2 tsp sesame oil
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil


1. Clean the spinach. Remove any tough stems.

2. Blanch the spinach: Bring water to a boil and add the spinach. Then quickly toss the spinach in the boiling water. Just when the leaves start wilting, but are still bright green and barely cooked, drain the spinach using a colander.

3. Soak in cold water to preserve the color (drain and soak again if water becomes too warm). Lightly squeeze the spinach dry and, if you are not serving it immediately, refrigerate.

4. Heat up a wok with 1 cup of vegetable oil at low heat. When the oil is hot (you can test it with a wooden chopstick: if bubbles form around the chopstick, the oil is hot enough), add the peanuts and fry until golden.

5. Mince garlic for later use.

Prepare the sauce: 

Mix well: light soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, salt, sugar; adjust according to taste.


1. Mix peanuts, spinach, and sauce. Add the garlic on top.

2. Heat about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a wok at low heat. Add 1-2 dried chili peppers and fry till fragrant. Pour the hot oil on the garlic topping.

3. Mix well and serve.