The first thing that needs to be said about this root vegetable is the obvious resemblance to Harry’s magic wand, don’t you think? Burdock root – known as gobo (goh-BOH) in Hawaii – is usually kept under damp burlap bags at local supermarkets, and the reason why I decided to experiment with it just now is because I had read something interesting about it being the most “yang” vegetable in Zen macrobiotic cooking.
A little old lady at Hula Wednesdays was a great help in telling me how to cook gobo, and suggested a few ideas to begin with. Treated like a turnip, it can be pickled or put into soups or stews such as japanese nishime. Another idea was to take short lengths of cleaned gobo, roll it in thinly sliced pork, and securely knot with softened strips of konbu (seaweed kelp). The rolls are then simmered in a sugar and shoyu mixture. The one dish that she suggested not to miss was kimpira gobo as shown below (I’ve also seen it spelled as kinpira gobo). It’s like a stir-fry seasoned with sesame oil, dried shrimps, sugar, soy sauce, and chile pepper, and I came across many versions for this recipe. The one I’ll share at the end was taken from an old cooking pamphlet of my dad’s.
The best gobo experiment on the net turned out to be a recipe for Sautéed Ahi, Eggplant and Gobo in a Soy Mirin Glaze, with Tomato Lomi and Kalamansi Butter Sauce (link no longer valid). My brother, who shuns eggplant, agreed to play guinea pig and was actually okay with the citrusy, asian flavors that went into this. I had to make do with regular limes and simplified the tomato part, and my only gripe is that it gave no directions for the plate up. Therefore, I just piled it all atop a bed of white rice. Voila!
Kimpira Gobo1/2 lb. gobo, pared and julienned into matchstick size
1 dozen dried shrimp
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 fresh chili pepper (minced) or a good pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
As you cut the gobo into julienne strips, place in a bowl of cool water to keep them from discoloring; soak for 30 minutes before use. Sauté the dried shrimp and gobo (well-drained) in hot oil for 5 minutes. Add chili pepper, sugar, soy sauce, and continue to simmer and stir over low heat for about 10 minutes until lightly caramelized. Serve as a vegetable sidedish.