Non-Kinpira Sautéed Burdock Root
Burdock root, or Gobō (ゴボウ), is often used in a dish called Kinpira Gobo or in New Years dishes called Osechi. Both dishes sauté or braise the gobo in sugar and soy sauce. I love the vegetable but wanted something a little bit more refreshing and light than the traditional sweet soy sauce, so I was excited when my mom shared this recipe. The first time she made it for me, I ate 2 burdock roots in one sitting pre-dinner (burdock root is about 3 feet long). I just couldn't stop going for that next bite.
Before we go into the actual dish, let's talk about the root vegetable itself. Most people are unfamiliar with this root which looks more like a twig than food. It's so off-putting at first, that there's even an urban legend of a Japanese chef being convicted of war crimes for feeding an American prisoner burdock root during WWII. Of course it's just a legend, but it does say a lot about the gobo. And I have to admit that if you didn't grow up eating it, it may take some time. But once you learn to love the sweet, mild and earthy vegetable there's no turning back. Not only is the flavor addicting, it's high in fiber and potassium and the plant has been used as medicine for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. So the moral of the story is, you should definitely go eat 2 burdock roots in one sitting.
A lot of recipes tell you to peel the exterior skin. Using a peeler would waste so much of the good stuff, so the best way to peel the skin is to take the back of your knife and rub the gobo back and forth. The toughest part about using gobo is the chopping. Because it's so fibrous, it's usually cut thin or shaved, and in this case finely julienned or thin sticks. Like a carrot, it's pretty tough in its raw form (don't worry it does get tender once cooked), so it requires a bit of patience and skill. The easiest way to get a julienne? Cut the gobo into 2 inch pieces, then slice to thin slabs. Stack up the slabs and cross cut into thin strips. If you get 1/8" strips, it's a julienne. If you can get 1/16", you've got yourself a fine julienne.
One thing you want to keep in mind is that like artichoke or potatoes, gobo oxidizes once cut. So if you need to cut ahead of time, make sure to let it sit in water. Once you've julienned your gobo, you're about 5 minutes away from devouring them!