What are sesame seeds (Kkae) ?
Sesame seeds (참깨 cham-kkae) are the seeds of the sesame plant. The seeds are harvested in the fall. Then the seeds are dried, washed, slowly roasted and used in cooking as a seasoning ingredient and condiment.
The above picture shows roasted Korean sesame seeds (on the left) and unroasted raw American sesame seeds (on the right). Sesame seeds do become more plump and brown as you roast them but I do think the American sesame seeds are a bit of a different variety.
Here are all the different forms of sesame seeds in Korean cooking -
- 통깨 Tong Kkae (whole sesame seeds)
- 볶은깨 Bokken Kkae or 볶음 참깨 Bokkeum Chamkkae (roasted sesame seeds)
- 깨소금 Kkae Sogeum (crushed roasted sesame seeds with salt) but sometimes it just refers to the crushed kind without salt
Sesame seeds add great nuttiness to any dish and also as a garnish on top of dishes after it's plated.
Not To Be Confused With
perilla seeds (deulkkae 들깨) which are seeds from the Perilla plant NOT sesame seed plant.
Where and What To Buy
Koreans don't use raw sesame seeds in recipes so you will want to buy raw uncooked sesame seeds only if you plan to roast them at home.
Or you can look for Roasted or Toasted Korean or Japanese white sesame seeds as they are a lot nuttier than the raw seeds.
They should say "Roasted/Toasted Sesame Seeds" or 볶음 참깨 in Korean.
If you are looking for sesame seeds to plant and grow - you can buy the seeds online and can grow yourself. Sesame is a tropical annual herb that grows to about 60cm (24″) tall and you can harvest the seeds in the fall.
Read more in the How to Grow section to see how Koreans grow and harvest sesame seeds.
How to Use/Cook
If you have raw sesame seeds, roast them first by sauteeing in a frying pan on low heat for few minutes.
Use roasted sesame seeds as a seasoning ingredient in vegetable side dishes or meat marinades.
Then use it as a garnish on top of vegetable/namul dishes or any dish that already contains sesame seeds in the dish. Also, you can grind sesame seeds to make tea cookies like Dasik.
How to Clean/Store
Sesame seeds are shelf-stable and will not go bad or rancid in the pantry. It will be good for months at room temperature.
How To Grow
You can grow sesame seed plants quite easily and harvest the seeds in the fall. Just cut the tall stem with the seed pods, dry the stalks then shake it off to collect the seeds.
Here are some pictures that I took in Korea.
Close up of the sesame pods - these are beaten and shaken so the seeds become loose from the pod
Because sesame seeds are eaten in small amount, it's not clear how much of an health effect it has but it's known to have the following benefits -
- may lower cholesterol and triglycerides
- may help lower blood pressure
- may be good for bone health
- good source of b vitamins