Gobo Mama

The food: Kinpira gobo

The story:

Gobo is the Japanese name for burdock root, a somewhat nasty looking vegetable that becomes strangely addictive when traditionally prepared – after being peeled and slivered – with similarly peeled and cut carrots, in a braise of soy sauce, mirin (sweet cooking wine) and sugar. The finished dish, dusted with toasted sesame seeds, is called kinpira gobo.

In the past, I’ve been lucky to eat kinpira gobo courtesy of my stepmother Betty, who does a far better job than I do of julienning the carrots and burdock, but I never made it myself until this week, when a birthday dinner for my niece that featured a full homemade Asian menu, not including gobo, inspired me to go foraging at a Japanese grocery store.

I forgot to take a picture of the roots I bought, which were the same shape as the one in the picture below, but had a considerably darker and hairier skin, and came, the grocer informed me, from a farm near Windsor, Ontario.

To make my gobo, I peeled and sliced lengthwise 2 carrots and 3 burdock roots, then soaked the burdock root pieces in cold water for 15 minutes (they still looked unappetizing after the soak, being white and fibrous in appearance, with discoloured dark edges).

After drying off the root strips, I sauteed both them and the carrot strips in 1-2 Tbsp. of canola oil over medium high heat until they were lightly browned, then stirred in equal parts mirin and soy sauce (about 3 Tbsp. each) to cover, plus 1 Tbsp. of sugar. I let the liquids come to a boil, turned down the heat to simmer and covered the skillet, and let the vegetables cook for another 5-10 minutes until the liquids had evaporated and the vegetables were tender and ready to be sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Kinpira gobo can be eaten warm or at room temperature and certainly tastes healthy as well as tasty, though I can’t swear it will help soothe your aching joints as some herbalists apparently believe, unless, of course, you eat it after (or while!) dancing to Baby Bash and Sean Kingston’s “What is it?” featuring a catchy Go, Mama, Go (bo) chorus. Do that and you’ll feel better, fo’ sho’.

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