Kinpira Gobo (japanese burdock)

Japanese Kinpira Gobo
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.

  • http://melaniemusings-melanie.blogspot.com/ Melanie

    I love burdock–it’s woodsy and great!

  • http://melaniemusings-melanie.blogspot.com/ Melanie

    I love burdock–it’s woodsy and great!

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

    Wow–I’ve not worked with burdock before. It sounds hearty and interesting. Roger that on the good for blood loss, as well.

    I, too, am still in the clumsy stage. Most recent mishap: turning fried eggs in the cast iron pan yesterday bought me a hot oil/butter burn on the side of my face. Awesome.

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

    Wow–I’ve not worked with burdock before. It sounds hearty and interesting. Roger that on the good for blood loss, as well.

    I, too, am still in the clumsy stage. Most recent mishap: turning fried eggs in the cast iron pan yesterday bought me a hot oil/butter burn on the side of my face. Awesome.

  • http://constableslarder.com/ Giff

    “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.”

    too funny Marc :)

  • http://constableslarder.com Giff

    “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.”

    too funny Marc :)

  • http://www.palatetopen.com/ Jen

    The picture alone is worth a few knicks!

  • http://www.palatetopen.com Jen

    The picture alone is worth a few knicks!

  • http://kitchensidecar.blogspot.com/ katiek from kitchensidecar

    I just bought some burdock! I was gonna do just this with it. I bought some other mild vegis to with it.

    Have you ever used white lily bulb? I have never tasted them, but I figured that they would be mild and work in a stir fry with either these burdocks or fresh bamboo shoots.

    Thoughts?

    • marc

      I’ve never had white lily bulb, but if it’s anything like lotus bulb (renkon), it should be delicious.

  • http://kitchensidecar.blogspot.com katiek from kitchensidecar

    I just bought some burdock! I was gonna do just this with it. I bought some other mild vegis to with it.

    Have you ever used white lily bulb? I have never tasted them, but I figured that they would be mild and work in a stir fry with either these burdocks or fresh bamboo shoots.

    Thoughts?

    • marc

      I’ve never had white lily bulb, but if it’s anything like lotus bulb (renkon), it should be delicious.

  • http://agliooliopeperoncino.blogspot.com/ Lola

    I must see if I can find these roots, here where I live (Italy) I have often used the plant, which goes by the name Bardana here, but I’ve never seen burdock. The recipe sounds inviting.
    I’m no chef, so imagine how *I* slash my fingers! Ciao and thanks for sharing your talent as usual.

    • marc

      After doing a bit of googling I found that “bardana” is the same thing as burdock.

  • http://agliooliopeperoncino.blogspot.com Lola

    I must see if I can find these roots, here where I live (Italy) I have often used the plant, which goes by the name Bardana here, but I’ve never seen burdock. The recipe sounds inviting.
    I’m no chef, so imagine how *I* slash my fingers! Ciao and thanks for sharing your talent as usual.

    • marc

      After doing a bit of googling I found that “bardana” is the same thing as burdock.

  • http://scalloped-edge.blogspot.com/ Joanna

    Marc, where do you buy your burdock root? Just asking because I found some at the Union Square Greenmarket (I think at the Paffenroth booth?) a week or two ago that was much thicker than usual – almost an inch in diameter! It was also shorter than usual but I have a feeling they cut it off a larger piece. Maybe thicker roots tend be tougher, or less tasty, or something, but this one seemed fine to me, and it was SO much easier to work with – might be worth looking for. I actually used your other kinpira gobo recipe, the one with miso, and it was delicious!

    • marc

      The kind of burdock at the farmers market (shorter thicker roots) is a slighty different species than the Japanese gobo, but the taste is quite similar. I actually picked a bunch at a park yesterday.

  • http://scalloped-edge.blogspot.com Joanna

    Marc, where do you buy your burdock root? Just asking because I found some at the Union Square Greenmarket (I think at the Paffenroth booth?) a week or two ago that was much thicker than usual – almost an inch in diameter! It was also shorter than usual but I have a feeling they cut it off a larger piece. Maybe thicker roots tend be tougher, or less tasty, or something, but this one seemed fine to me, and it was SO much easier to work with – might be worth looking for. I actually used your other kinpira gobo recipe, the one with miso, and it was delicious!

    • marc

      The kind of burdock at the farmers market (shorter thicker roots) is a slighty different species than the Japanese gobo, but the taste is quite similar. I actually picked a bunch at a park yesterday.

  • http://www.practicallydone.com/ helen

    Have you ever tried burdock with canned tuna and mayo? It sounds weird, but it’s really delicious!

  • http://www.practicallydone.com helen

    Have you ever tried burdock with canned tuna and mayo? It sounds weird, but it’s really delicious!

  • http://www.deglazeme.blogspot.com/ Christina@DeglazeMe

    Marc, you are hilarious with the blood-loss jokes!! Very clever. Anyway, I appreciate how you introduce ingredients that may be new to many of your readers. I love it!

  • http://www.deglazeme.blogspot.com Christina@DeglazeMe

    Marc, you are hilarious with the blood-loss jokes!! Very clever. Anyway, I appreciate how you introduce ingredients that may be new to many of your readers. I love it!

  • http://www.thedairyshow.com/ Michael

    Cool recipe and great tips on burdock. I always see the farmer’s market variety and think about buying it, but am never really sure what do do with it. Next week, I’ll pick some up and try this technique out. Thanks!

  • http://www.thedairyshow.com Michael

    Cool recipe and great tips on burdock. I always see the farmer’s market variety and think about buying it, but am never really sure what do do with it. Next week, I’ll pick some up and try this technique out. Thanks!

  • http://goldilocksfindsmanhattan.blogspot.com/ Ulla

    Never had this before, it looks so good. I imagine this is not the American weed then? We have SO Much of this on the farm. In fact it was my job to whack it away in the summer(not my favorite chore!)

  • http://goldilocksfindsmanhattan.blogspot.com/ Ulla

    Never had this before, it looks so good. I imagine this is not the American weed then? We have SO Much of this on the farm. In fact it was my job to whack it away in the summer(not my favorite chore!)

  • http://colloquialcookin.canalblog.com/ colloquial cook

    GO GOBO!

    (lamest comment ever)

  • http://colloquialcookin.canalblog.com/ colloquial cook

    GO GOBO!

    (lamest comment ever)

  • http://www.foodgal.com/ Carolyn Jung

    Burdock is full of iron? Who knew! I love it for its crunch. When I get sushi, and my hubby gets a bento box, I often pick the burdock off his plate to enjoy for myself.

  • http://www.foodgal.com Carolyn Jung

    Burdock is full of iron? Who knew! I love it for its crunch. When I get sushi, and my hubby gets a bento box, I often pick the burdock off his plate to enjoy for myself.

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com/ elra

    Simply delicious! As always.
    Cheers,
    elra

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com elra

    Simply delicious! As always.
    Cheers,
    elra

  • http://mrfastforward.com/ Fast Forward

    Gobo rules!
    And man oh man I concur with you about the blood loss relating to mandoline usage. Those things are lethal! Give me a knife any day!
    And Joanna – yes Paffenroth, that’s where I buy my burdock root too.
    OK, I’m off to cook some now :-)

  • http://mrfastforward.com Fast Forward

    Gobo rules!
    And man oh man I concur with you about the blood loss relating to mandoline usage. Those things are lethal! Give me a knife any day!
    And Joanna – yes Paffenroth, that’s where I buy my burdock root too.
    OK, I’m off to cook some now :-)

  • http://harusami.com Harusami

    Just found your site today Marc, and I LOVE it! Here’s a tip, most Japanese grocers carry frozen prepared burdock & carrot. It was a Godsend to my mom who did all that preparing and slicing by hand for years. And it’s so easy for me to throw together kimpira gobo without losing any blood. :)

  • http://twitter.com/shethatisnau Jessica R-E

    To this day I have a scar on one of my finger tips from trying to grate that last little bit of onion while working in a restaurant… “*grategrategrate-* YOOOWWCH!” Right through the first layers of skin. For a week I could squeeze the tip of my finger and a little mouth would open, exposing under-layers of god only know’s what.  I’m grateful it healed completely given how deep it was. I’m no stranger to clumsiness induced inflictions. I currently have bruises on my legs from riding my new bike (and not being used to it’s various attachments), as well as scars all over my arms and hands from various cooking incidents. I have nearly matching marks on both arms from making a potato gratin and having a couple drops of 400degree cream splash over the rim and scald my forearms. :D

  • Lan

    Thank you for this recipe.  I am making it now and it looks great I am sure it will taste good too.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/pepe.gatopardo Pepe Gatopardo

    mola

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!