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.

Renkon Chips

Lotus root (renkon, 蓮根) are a vegetable that is hard to forget. The first time one comes across one it is fascinating to see the natural holes in the vegetable. It seems like a work of art at first.

Lotus root start to come into the market in the fall, in September and October, and continue until about January. It has a lovely dense texture and can become a bit slippery when it is cooked.

It is lovely as kinpira, sliced thin and stir-fried in a sweet soy sauce and then accented with some red chili (tōgarashi, 一味唐辛子) or seven spice (shichimi, 七味). It can be cut into thick slices, stuffed with ground meat and fried. Grating lotus root and mixing it with potato starch (katakuriko, 片栗粉) makes a chewy mochi when fried.

It is found in regional food as a local dish from Kumamoto called karashi renkon, the wholes are stuffed with Japanese karashi mustard.

At Izakaya Sakamoto we love frying it into chips. The earthy chips are great on their own or add a nice depth as a topping to salads. With a Benriner mandoline, thinly slice the lotus root. Set it on a bamboo plate or on newspapers and let it air dry in a sunny spot for 30 to 60 minutes. This extra step makes it much easier when cooking in oil. Deep-fry until it turns a golden brown and season immediately with salt.

On a side note, we were hoping to get our cooking school up and running last year, but have been so busy with our Food Sake Tokyo tours that we have not made much progress. We do currently offer cooking classes, but only to those who have kitchens in Tokyo. We will start posting recipes on this blog and will keep you updated on when our cooking classes begin.