I’m one of those people who never outgrew his clumsy stage in life and can often be seen sporting a vibrant array of cuts and bruises from run-ins with subway turnstiles and such. In the kitchen, I’m not much better, and Kinpira Gobo is my worst enemy.
When making this popular Japanese dish, it’s a rare day when I get through making it without at least knicking myself. The problem is that it’s very thin, very tough and very round, making it rather difficult to julienne for a preparation like Kinpira. In the past I’ve tried cutting it into segments and passing the segments through a mandoline rather than hand cutting it, but that only led to more carnage.
This time, I tried mandolining the whole burdock, which got me through with only one small scratch. The Kinpira came out out looking more shredded than julienned, since they aren’t cut with the grain, but they’re passable and this method kept my fingers the furthest from the blade.
Thankfully, burdock is an extremely good source of iron, so despite the risk of bloodloss, during preparation, your body will be able to replace some of that missing hemoglobin in short order. It’s also a great source of dietary fiber, calcium and potassium.
Because burdock has a deep earthy flavour, it makes a perfect pairing with the soy sauce and caramelized sugar in kinpira gobo, and since it’s not cooked very long, it retains a satisfyingly crunchy fibrous texture. Served with a bowl of rice, it makes for a great side, or nice filling vegan meal that doesn’t taste nearly as healthy as it actually is.
3 ft. long burdock root (gobo) julienned
1 carrot julienned
1 Tbs oil
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs mirin
1 Tbs + 2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbs sesame seeds
Because the burdock contains a ton of minerals that start oxidizing on contact with air it’s important to do most of the prep under water to prevent it from turning color.
First you need to peel it. A vegetable peeler would do, but the roots are so narrow you won’t be left with much burdock after it’s been peeled. Holding a knife at a 90 degree angle against the surface of the burdock under running water and scraping is the best way to get rid of the dark outer skin.
The proper way to julienne the burdock is to cut 2″ lengths, sliced them lengthwise then slice them into matchsticks, but given how narrow and hard it is, it’s a very labor intensive process. I used a Japanese mandoline to shred the whole burdock straight into a bowl of cold water for this one. The pieces aren’t quite as nice looking as hand cutting them, but it’s much faster.
After cutting the burdock and carrots, soak them in a couple changes of cold water to remove the excess minerals that will cause them to change color.
Heat a frying pan over high heat until hot then add a generous splash of oil (about 1+ Tbs). Drain the burdock and carrots well and add them to the oil. Fry, stirring constantly until the carrots are no longer crunchy (the burdock should still be a bit crunchy).
Add the sugar and mirin and stir to coat. Add the soy sauce and stir until there is no liquid left and there is a nice caramelized soy sauce aroma coming from the pan. Take off the heat and toss in the sesame seeds.
Serve with hot rice.