Gobo Kinpira: Sweet-Savory Sauteed Burdock Root

Gobo Kinpira: Sweet-Savory Sauteed Burdock Root

Experience the delightful combination of tsumami, savory finger-snacks, and drinks in Japan. This recipe for kinpira features gobo (burdock root) sautéed with soy sauce, sugar, sake, and sesame oil, creating a sweet-savory flavor. Perfect as a bar snack or side dish!

I love grabbing a drink in Japan, because it's never just about the booze -- there's always some kind of food involved. At its most elemental, that grub is tsumami, savory finger-snacks to whet the palate, to make you wanna knock one (or more) back. Some of the best tsumami I've tasted are crunchy deep-fried eel bones, karasumi (pickled mullet roe), shiokara (fermented squid or fish guts) and all manner of kinpira, a technique for sautéing root veggies in a sweet-savory reduction. A bite of tsumami and a sip of beer, sake or shochu -- that, my friends, is satisfaction guaranteed. The recipe that follows is for kinpira made with one of my favorite root veggies, earthy, elemental gobo (burdock root). But you can also use this technique with carrots, lotus root (peel and thinly slice), or a combination of roots (you can even make it with hijiki seaweed.) Here I shave-cut the gobo (sasagaki) but you can also cut it like matchsticks and sauté. Keep in mind, too, that kinpira is not just a bar snack; it's an easy side dish that you can also eat the next day cold (like I did for lunch in my office today!). Here's the recipe... enjoy:

Gobo (Burdock) with Sesame and Shichimi Togarashi

Ingredients:

  • 1 gobo (burdock root)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds (optional, for garnish)
  • Shichimi togarashi (optional, for garnish)

Instructions:

  1. Clean the Gobo: Scrub the surface lightly under cold running water using a kitchen scouring pad. Aim for a light scrub to retain the flavor without scraping with the back of a knife.

  2. Prepare the Gobo: Cut the gobo sasagaki-style by scoring the root lengthwise several times, then whittling the end with a sharp knife to produce shavings. Soak the shavings in cold water to prevent discoloration.

  3. Create the Seasoning Mixture (Chomirio): In a separate bowl, combine soy sauce, sugar, and sake. Set aside.

  4. Cook the Gobo: Heat sesame oil in a skillet over high heat until it is about to smoke. Drain the gobo and add it to the skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes until the gobo becomes translucent.

  5. Add the Chomirio: Pour the seasoning mixture over the gobo. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated.

  6. Garnish and Serve: Optionally, sprinkle with sesame seeds or shichimi togarashi before serving. Can be enjoyed hot or cold.