For those not familiar with gobo (or burdock), it’s one of those wonder-veggies that has loads of fiber, iron and calcium. When lightly sauteed it’s got a pleasantly fibrous crunchy texture without being stringy or tough. When cooked for longer periods of time it will get tender while retaining it’s structure. Flavor wise, gobo is earthy, minerally, and just tastes “healthy”, but not in an overpowering medicinal kind of way.
If you don’t have a Japanese market near you, you may have a hard time finding it, but it’s the taproot of a common “weed” that grows all over the world. Here in NY, you needn’t look further than a patch of dirt disturbed by humans and you’ll find it growing all over the place.
“Kinpira” is type of Japanese dish that involves sauteing then simmering root veggies cut into thin strips. Kinpira Gobo is a very common side dish served with rice that’s typically seasoned with mirin, soy sauce and sugar. For my version I used miso and ground sesame seeds to compliment the earthiness of the gobo. It’s not a traditional preparation, but the flavors are very Japanese.
This isn’t really intended to be served as a main dish, but rather as “okazu” or something that goes along with rice and your main dish. A typical Japanese dinner might include a small grilled fish, a few types of okazu, a bowl of rice and bowl of miso soup.
1 gobo (burdock root about 2-3 feet long)
1 Tbs oil
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbs mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
1 Tbs white miso
3 Tbs water
3 Tbs ground toasted sesame seeds*
To prepare the burdock you’ll need to scrub it thoroughly with a rough sponge or a food brush. If you don’t have either you could run the blade of a knife along the root at a 90 degree angle to scrape the brown skin off. You could use a vegetable peeler but these roots are relatively thin so if you use a peeler there won’t be much root left to eat.
Cut burdock will start turning brown on contact with air, so it’s best to work in small batches and put the cut burdock in a bowl of water. Cut off a 2″ length of burdock using a sharp knife and slice in to 1/16″ slices lengthwise. Then cut the slices in the other direction lengthwise to form thin matchsticks. Soak the matchsticks in water until you’re ready to use them.
Heat 1 Tbs of oil in a pot until hot. Drain the gobo and add to the pot (be careful as the hot oil will spatter). Stir fry for about a minute until the gobo is well coated with oil and starting to cook. Add the sugar and mirin and stir. Add the miso and water stiring until the miso is dissolved. Cover and turn down the heat and simmer for a few more minutes. I like my gobo on the crunchy side so I let it cook for another 2-3 minutes covered, but if you want it softer, cook it for 5-10 minutes.
When it’s cooked, add the ground toasted sesame seeds, stir, then plate. You can garnish with some whole toasted sesame seeds and chili flakes.
* To toast sesame seeds, just add sesame seeds to a pan and heat the pan using a swirling motion to keep the seeds moving at all times. It will turn a nice golden color and will smell like sesame when it’s done. To grind, you can use a spice grinder, a pepper mill, a food processor, or if you like to kick it old skool, use a mortar and pestle.