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