These are the seeds of an annual herb that grow in long, oblong pods. They are tiny, heart-shaped, jet-black on the outside and white inside and are used as a flavouring. Their nutty flavour is similar to but slightly stronger than white or yellow sesame seeds. They are often used for their aesthetic appeal, as a contrast to white-coloured food such as bread rolls.
Buy black sesame seeds from supermarkets’ speciality sections, or Japanese and Chinese grocers.
Store away from direct sunlight or moisture, which will cause the seeds to form lumps. Dry-roasting black sesame seeds will help to improve their shelf life.
Black sesame seeds are used in Japanese and Chinese cookery to flavour salads, tofu, dressings, dipping sauces, cakes, biscuits, confectionery, desserts, ice creams and drinks. The Japanese dry-roast them lightly before use, then combine them with salt and use the mixture as a popular table condiment called goma-shio (‘sesame salt’), which is sprinkled over rice.