Burdock Root- Gobo


Before I moved to Japan, I had never seen, tasted or even heard of burdock.  Now I know why.  It would have to be one of the strangest vegetables I have ever seen in a shop anywhere.  To the untrained eye it looks like a dirty old stick, about a metre long and maybe as thick as your thumb at the thick end.   It is covered with dirty brown “bark” and it really looks very unappetising.  Talk about Cinderella!

When it makes it to you plate, it is hard to believe that you are eating the same thing that you would previously have used to play “fetch” with your dog.  You see burdock isn’t a dirty old stick at all.  It is actually a root or tuber and within it’s ugly duckling appearance is actually a beautiful vegetable.

The Japanese call Burdock, Gobo and the Chinese use it as a medicinal herb, but Australians really don’t use it at all.  So I was a loss as to how to cook this bizarre thing.  Having, up until now, tried it cooked by others, I gave it a stab myself the other night.  And I failed.  There is a fine balance between cooking it enough to make it edible and plain old burning it.  I lost the balance and the burnt burdock ended up in the compost.  I haven’t given up yet and so will give it another go soon.  It is definitely worth the trouble and so I will persist.

Burdock root is usually scraped, rather than peeled, and either shaved or julienned thinly.  Its most popular recipe seems to be burdock kinpira, where it is sauteed with carrots, chilli, and the usual suspects of sake, mirin, soy and sugar.  

When I succeed in my burdock cooking I will share the recipe with you here.  Until then I will keep on practicing and you will just have to wait 

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    • http://www.mmm-yoso.typepad.com Kirk

      Hi Tom – Gobo has such an earthy flavor, and such an easy item to prepare…I guess that having to “gird” yourself to make it may defeat the purpose of eating it.

    • Judy

      Tom ..easy recipe for Gobo…scrub the dirt off with a vegetable brush….get a large bowl with cold water in it… take your cleaned gobo root and a potatoe peeler and start peeling it as if you were peeling a potato.. letting the peels drop into the bowl with water…when finished drain the water and gobo into a strainer…. In a wok take 2tblsp of canola oil and let it get hot being careful add your gobo to the wok …stir fry about 5mins…. add about 2tblsps. of black pepper and and about 1/4 cup of soy sauce stir fry for another 5mins…. and get yourself a bowl of hot rice and enjoy !!!! If you really like black pepper add more while you are cooking gives it a great taste….I have a hard time finding gobo here in Florida so when I fly up to NJ ..I go to Ft.lee and buy it there … I love it and could eat it everyday. Judy

    • Tom

      Hi Judy
      Thanks for the recipe. That sounds really good. I’ll have to give it a go.
      Thanks again

    • A Lee

      I just bought some burdock from fort lee too.
      It will be my first time cooking and trying this vegetable. :)

    • Terry

      Hmmmm….I have burdock growing like crazy in my yard. Tonight for the first time I dug up some of the young plants and peeled the roots and found little white tubers inside which I microwaved and then ate with pepper and butter.
      They were pretty good! When burdock gets mature it’s really hard to dig up the roots, so I plan to nip it in the bud this year and enjoy the tender young burdock while preventing the big ugly ones from developing. The burrs are a nightmare if your dog gets into them.

    • Jayne

      Hi Judy
      we are looking all over for Gobo or burdock and live 20 min from fort lee.
      Could you tell us the name of the store where you buy it