Kyoto Yasai – Manganji Togarashi 万願寺唐辛子

Kyoto is famous for many locally grown vegetables, Kyo yasai, for short. This list includes mizuna greens that are now popular even in the US, Kyo takenoko (bamboo shoots), and  Kamo nasu (eggplant). Manganji are green peppers that are bigger than shishitō and the skin is a bit thicker. These are not spicy peppers and are easy to cook. The seeds are easy to remove.

This kinpira-style recipe includes dried baby sardines, but you could make it without the fish.

Manganji peppers

chirimenjako (dried baby sardines)

vegetable oil

sake

sugar

soy sauce

Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds. Cut the pepper into bite-size pieces.

Sauté the chirimenjako in vegetable oil for about a minute or until it becomes a little crispy. Add the peppers and sauté for another minute.

Add some saké, sugar, and soy sauce and sauté for a minute. If you have mirin in the house, add a bit to give the peppers a glaze and a bit more sweetness.

This dish is good hot or at room temperature. It’s a great in a bentō.

Kyō yasai    Kyoto vegetables 京野菜

mizuna  みずな

Kyō takenoko   Kyoto bamboo shoot 京竹の子

Kamo nasu     Kamo eggplant  賀茂茄子

Manganji tōgarashi     Manganji pepper  万願寺唐辛子

Kamo and Manganji are both places in Kyoto, so they are capitalized.

Gobo Burdock Root

Our cooking school has opened up. While we continue our food tours in Tokyo, we are starting to put more energy into teaching Japanese cuisine. Our blog will include more recipes going forward. We will also continue to share restaurants and food shops in Japan as well as the occasional travelogue.

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Shin gobo 新牛蒡

In season now is the earthy root vegetable, gobo, or burdock root. This time of year it is called shin gobo, or new gobo.

Burdock root can be dense in texture, but in early summer the fibers are very tender. Burdock root is often sold with earth clinging to the skin. After washing it off it can be peeled. Many cookbooks will suggest soaking it in water so the burdock root doesn’t turn brown. My vegetarian cooking teachers says that it is better not to soak in water and to just cook with it immediately. She also suggests scrubbing the long root vegetable thoroughly with a scrubber (Japanese tawashi) and not peeling it.

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Burdock Root and Chicken

This dish is simple to pull together. Carefully wash the burdock root and cut at an angle into small pieces. Cut chicken thigh into bitesize pieces. In a pot saute some garlic and burdock root in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Add the chicken and continue to saute until the color of the chicken changes. Add dashi to cover the mixture and then some soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot or at room temperature.

kinpira gobo

Kinpira Gobo

Mastering kinpira will add a wonderful dish to your kitchen repertoire. I usually make it with gobo (burdock root) and carrots, but it can be made with a variety of vegetables including renkon (lots root), celery, and even potatoes. The vegetables should be julienned, or if making from renkon, sliced thinly. Better yet, learn how to do the “sasagaki” cut, which results in vegetable shards that look like bamboo leaves (sasa).

Gobo should be soaked in water immediately after it is cut or it turns brown.

Cut your vegetables (julienne or sasagaki).

In a saute pan, stir-fry the vegetables in a bit of oil until the vegetables start to soften. Then season with sugar, soy sauce, sake and sesame oil. I do it all to taste but if you are looking for rough amounts:

1 burdock root
1 carrot
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons sake
1 Tablespoon sesame oil

If you like a bit of spice feel free to add either dried chili sliced thinly or seven spice shichimi togarashi. Toasted sesame seeds are also a nice compliment.

This dish can be eaten hot or cold, so is perfect for adding to a bento. For a vegetarian sandwich, toss with some mayonnaise and serve with bread.

Japanese Spring Vegetable – Udo

Spring is an exciting time for vegetable lovers in Japan. Udo (Aralia cordata) is spikenard. It is grown here in Tokyo in the area where we live. It is grown underground and the spears are white or with a hint of green. There is even a character, Udora, for udo in Tachikawa. While most characters strive to be kawaii (cute), Udora is far from kawaii.

Udo reminds me of the white asparagus I had while living in Belgium, just with a bit of bitterness to it. It is lovely as tempura, as served at Nihonbashi Tenmatsu.

Two of my other favorite dishes are kinpira (top photo), sautéed with oil, sake, soy sauce, and a bit of sugar. The bottom photo is boiled udo dressed with mayonnaise and umeboshi.

Udo is one of Japan’s spring vegetables that is very easy to cook at home.