Saturday, September 28, 2013

Kinpira Gobo - Japanese Burdock

I stumbled on burdock quite by accident. While looking for celeriac in the produce section of my market, I found a stash of dirt encrusted roots that were about 18 inches long.
I was intrigued enough to do some research, and learned that what had aroused my curiosity was actually the edible taproot of a plant belonging to the thistle family. While I had never seen it before, the root, called burdock, is popular throughout Asia, where it is still eaten and also used for medicinal purposes. Armed with that basic information, I went ahead and did an extensive search for ways in which to cook it. Strangely, there were few to be found and I found myself dealing with multiple occurrences of the same recipe. I really wanted to try this, but I wanted to get it right first time at bat. The roots were $9 a pound and that didn't leave much room for experimentation. A larger concern was how few of the roots the store actually had in stock. I went back and bought a pound which effectively delpleated their supply. Once home, I decided to use the recipe supplied by a group of expats living in Japan. They have a wonderful site called Tokyo Work Life where, among other things, they maintain a collection of Japanese recipes which you can find here. Their recipe differed from the others in that they used a hot dried chili, rather than miso, to flavor the dish that is called kinpira gobo. Their version of gobo is also cooked in dark sesame oil, rather than being sprinkled with sesame seeds before serving.
The first task was to clean and peel the roots. A good scrub with a vegetable brush took care of the encrusted dirt and I used the dull edge of a knife to peel the burdock. A peeler would have removed too much of the flesh. I did cheat a bit with the next step. The recipe called for cutting the roots into a very thin julienne. I used a julienne peeler to do this, so I ended up with lovely, but long, strips of burdock that would be difficult to eat with chopsticks. In a perfect world, the strips would have been cut to a uniform julienne about 2 inches long and 1/16 of an inch wide. I quickly learned that the strips need to go into cold water once they're cut to prevent them from turning black. Soaking in water helps to remove the minerals that cause oxidation to occur. I let mine sit for about 30 minutes in several changes of water. Burdock has a deep earthy flavor, like that of wild mushrooms, but it has a very fibrous texture that can be stringy if you don't cook it correctly or long enough. "Kinpira" describes a dish that is both sauteed and braised. The dual process produces a vegetable that is slightly fibrous and crunchy rather than tough. In Japan this is served as an accompaniment to a main course and rice. It is surprisingly pleasant. If you like to experiment and are in the market for something different, be fearless and give this a try. Here's the recipe.

Kinpira Gobo...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite, inspired by Tokyo Work Life


1 pound burdock root, peeled and julienned

1 large carrot, peeled and julienned

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

1-1/2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

1-1/2 tablespoons mirin( rice wine)

Vegetable oil

Salt and pepper


1) Peel and julienne burdock and carrot into 2-inch matchsticks. Soak in several changes of water for 30 minutes to remove excess minerals that would could cause oxidation. Drain well.

2) Heat pan or wok until hot. Add sesame oil, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and pepper flakes to pan. Add drained burdock and carrots to pan and saute/stir-fry for about 6 minutes stirring constantly. Add tamari, mirin and 3 tablespoons water to pan. Toss. Lower heat and cook, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes longer depending on how crunchy you like your vegetables. Serve warm with rice: Yield: 4 servings.

You might also like these recipes:

Kinpira Gobo - No Recipes

Cooking with Gobo - Edible Earthscapes

How to Make Kinpira Gobo - Eating Japan

Kinpira - Umami: What's for Dinner?

Kinpira Gobo - mmm-yoso!!!

This recipe is being linked to Regional Recipes - Japan, sponsored by Joanne of Eats Well with Others

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