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Seasonal eating: Burdock kinpira  

Recipes to reduce food waste

Burdock is a root vegetable found throughout Asia and Europe. It can be purchased locally at Asia Oriental Market or the Community Food Co-op. (Photo by Hannah Green)
By Hannah Green CDN Contributor

Root-to-leaf cooking uses all edible parts of a plant. This burdock root recipe is heavy on the root side of the equation.  

This recipe was inspired by an izakaya I loved in Eugene, Oregon. Izakaya Meiji Co. is no longer in business, but I carry with me the memories of many exceptional and inspired dishes. Their kinpira plate was my first introduction to burdock.  

Burdock is a root vegetable, part of the sunflower family, found throughout Asia and Europe. European settlers introduced burdock to North America, and it became a source of winter food for many Native American tribes, particularly throughout the northern regions. This root is long, thin and knobby, dirt-brown and unassuming. But the flavor is magical. When cooked, burdock is fairly mild with an earthy, nutty flavor entirely its own. 

One of the most common methods of preparation uses a technique called kinpira, a Japanese cooking method that can be described as saute and simmer. The most common kinpira dish uses burdock, also known as gobo. This was the dish Izakaya Meiji served. The seasoning, heat level, texture and perfect balance kept me thinking about the dish for, well, ever. I’ve done my best to recreate it here.  

The taste of burdock is unmistakably earthy. If you want to introduce earthy flavors to your palate, or introduce a new vegetable to your family, you can use half burdock and half carrot in this recipe, prepared the same way. The carrot’s natural sweetness softens the earthiness of the burdock.  

I like to get my burdock from Asia Oriental Market on Meridian; the couple who run the shop are unfailingly kind and helpful. Both the downtown and Cordata Co-ops carry burdock as well.  

Burdock kinpira 

Serves 4 side dishes  

Ingredients 
  • 12 ounces burdock root  
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil 
  • 2 tablespoons mirin, or 2 tablespoons dry rice vinegar (see note) 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (see note) 
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce 
  • 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds 
  • 1 teaspoon of togarashi or chili flakes, or to taste (optional) 

1. Combine mirin, sugar and soy sauce in a small bowl, and stir to combine. Set aside.

2. Clean the burdock: Scrub well with warm water and a little soap. If your burdock is particularly hard or has lots of little knobs that catch dirt, soak in warm water for a few minutes to loosen the dirt and soften the skin. If you like, you can trim the burdock with the back of a knife to gently scrape away the very top layer of skin. Underneath the first layer of paper-thin skin is a second layer that holds much of the flavor of the root; don’t scrape this off!  

3. Using a potato peeler, shave the burdock root into long, flat ribbons. Alternatively, use a sharp knife to thinly slice the burdock on the diagonal, then cut the diagonals into matchsticks. If not using right away, put the burdock ribbons in a bowl of cold water to preserve color and freshness. Dry well before sauteing.  


4. Preheat a medium pan over high heat. Add the sesame seeds to the dry pan (no oil or liquid added). Shake the pan continuously to avoid burning the sesame seeds, and cook for about 30 seconds, until sesame seeds smell nutty and rich and are lightly golden brown. Remove to a small bowl.  

5. Add sesame oil to the same pan, still set over high heat. Add the burdock ribbons and sear for about a minute, just enough to give the ribbons a little color and begin to tenderize. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the mirin, sugar and soy sauce mixture. Stir fry the burdock until the sauce has reduced and is clinging to the ribbons and the burdock is fork-tender, about 7 to 8 minutes more, stirring frequently. If the pan starts to dry out while cooking, add a tablespoon of water at a time and stir. When tender, remove from heat.  

6. Top with toasted sesame seeds and togarashi or chili flakes, if using. Serve.  

Notes

If you don’t have mirin, use dry rice vinegar; if you use rice vinegar, add an additional 2 teaspoons of sugar to the recipe (totaling 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar).  

Serving suggestions  

This dish can be served warm or room temperature. Use in rice bowls with ginger pork, serve with braised tofu and garlicky green beans (double the sauce in this recipe and use half for the tofu), or enjoy picnic-style with mackerel and pickled vegetables — or even as an appetizer to sushi. 

For a little more heat, add another pinch of togarashi or chili flakes, or set the table with a small bowl of rayu (chili oil) for each person to choose their own heat level. 

Drink pairings: Serve with an earthy, full-bodied Junmai sake or low-alcohol beer. 

Hannah Green's Root-to-Leaf column appears monthly.

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