You may have seen a long, thin, wood-like root for sale in our produce section here at Maido and wondered what it was. The root is more familiar than you’d think! It’s called gobo, or by it’s English name, burdock root, and is a popular vegetable in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisine. Gobo is native to Eurasia, and can be found in nitrogen rich soil everywhere from England to the eastern edge of Japan. Because of commerce, gobo has spread to North America and can often be found growing wild as a weed. The plant grows to an impressive height of up to 3 meters tall, and the leaves are very large and triangular with slightly curling edges. Gobo is rich in dietary fiber and high in mineral content, making it a healthy choice along with being a tasty one.
In a culinary sense, gobo can be treated similarly to a carrot. In fact, it is commonly cooked alongside carrots, as the slightly woody texture offers a pleasant contrast to the more fleshy, soft texture of cooked carrot. Gobo has a mildly sweet, earthy flavor, and, if not left to soak for about 10 minutes prior to cooking, can be slightly bitter. The root is somewhat fibrous, but provides a satisfying crunch even when simmered or stewed. The distinct flavor of gobo makes it a good partner for savory dishes like miso soup, and nimono (seasoned simmered vegetables).
To prepare gobo, first peel the skin using a vegetable peeler. The skin is not terribly thick, and technically edible, though bitter, so peeling gobo is somewhat like peeling a very, very long carrot in terms of both the physical action and level of necessity. After it has been peeled, gobo can be cut in a number of ways-- each one according to it’s planned usage. Popular cuts are a circular cross cut, like carrot slices, julienned into inch-long strips, and a diagonal cross cut that leaves it in fairly large chunks. After soaking the peeled and cut gobo root in water, try simmering it gently until tender with dashi, mirin, soy sauce, and hijiki seaweed for a tasty side dish. Or, for a slightly unorthodox approach, try it in curry (as pictured!) or in pasta sauce either alongside, or in place of carrots. With its distinct taste and texture, gobo is an excellent partner for dishes that are savory and stewed.