Shining the Spotlight on Kinpira Gobo, the Essential (but not often talked about) Side Dish

Kinpira - Chobits 01 - 01Let me be up front: I love kinpira gobo. Not only does it look attractive with its innumerable pieces of bronzy burdock root accented by orange slivers of cheery carrot, it also tastes great and is pretty healthy as well! Throw in the fact that it’s quite easy to make, goes great in bentos and with dinner, and you’ve got a side dish that’s an all around winner.

Kinpira gobo isn’t mentioned outright or by name in anime very often, but if you’re looking carefully, you will see it dotting the landscape of anime meals everywhere. Some anime that this dish is found in are the first episodes of both Chobits and Tari Tari. It’s even seen in some of the bentos featured in Ben-to, and was recently mentioned by name (but not actually seen) at the end of episode 3 of Blood Lad.

About the recipe:

Kinpira - Ben-to 04 - 01Kinpira is a form of cooking where the ingredients are sauteed and then simmered. Gobo is the Japanese word for burdock root. Therefore, kinpira gobo literally means “sauteed and simmered burdock root.” This dish is a combination of salty and sweet flavours, and often serves as a side dish to go with a Japanese meal. It is also served at room temperature, making it well suited for bento and for being made well ahead of time. I usually make a batch and then eat it during the week, whether as a side, a snack, or in a bento.

The only issue with making this dish is dealing with the burdock root, since it can be somewhat hard to cut. In addition, to avoid having the peeled root oxidize, it’s important to keep it submerged in water as much as possible.

Kinpira - Tari Tari 01I find that the best way to work with this root vegetable is to actually peel it underwater or under running water. I usually chop my burdock root into more manageable pieces (like 6-inch pieces), and then peel it underwater in a large bowl or pot. From there, you can cut the peeled burdock root into 2-inch segments, and then cut each segment into matchsticks, keeping anything not currently under your knife submerged in water.

As the burdock root is cut into matchsticks, it important to soak them in cold water. Soaking helps keep the root white while drawing out some of its woodsy flavour. Drain and replace the water a couple of times until the water remains fairly clear.

About the ingredients:

Kinpira - Ben-to 03 - 01Burdock root is a very long, slender, and nutritious root vegetable that is high in many vitamins. The outside is brownish, while the inside is off white. It’s available in many grocery stores, such as Whole Foods and your local Asian grocery store. Burdock root will oxidize quickly if its peeled interior is exposed to air, so keep your burdock root submerged in water while and after you peel it.

Ichimitogarashi (meaning “one flavour chilli pepper”) is a common type of ground chilli powder found in Japan. It can be found in Asian grocery stores, and select grocery stores. Ichimitogarashi adds a nice chilli flavour to this dish, helping to balance the sweet and salty sauce. You just need a small dash of the chilli pepper. It’s not meant to make the dish particularly spicy.

Roasted sesame seed oil (East Asian variety) is a very fragrant and dark brown coloured oil that is primarily drizzled on top of food just before serving. It is not generally used as a cooking oil due to its low smoke point. It is widely available in many grocery stores, and should not be substituted with cold-pressed sesame oil (a light yellow/clear oil), or Indian sesame oil (a golden coloured oil).

Kinpira 01

The recipe:

Kinpira Gobo

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 (18 inch) burdock root
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 1 tablespoon roasted sesame seed oil
  • ¾ cup dashi stock
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Pinch ichimitogarashi
  • 1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Combine the dashi stock, sake, sugar, mirin and soy sauce in a measuring cup or small bowl. Mix together until sugar has dissolved, and set the sauce aside.

2. Peel the burdock root under running water using a vegetable peeler or by using the back of a knife held at a 90 degree angle to the root to scrape the skin away.

Fill a bowl with cold water and add a drop of white vinegar. Cut burdock root into 2-inch long matchsticks. Soak the sliced burdock root in the bowl of water for at least 5 minutes. Change the water a couple of times until the water becomes clear. Leave the burdock root in the water until ready to cook.

3. Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dry the burdock root with a paper towel and add to the skillet. Sautee for about 4 minutes, then add the carrot and continue sauteing for another 2 minutes.

4. Add the sauce and reduce the heat to medium. Continue cooking while stirring occasionally. When most of the liquid has evaporated, taste the burdock root for doneness. It should be slightly firm while retaining a bit of crunch or bite.

5. Turn off the heat, and mix in a splash of sesame oil, the sesame seeds, and ichimitogarashi.

Serve at room temperature.

Sources: Some combination of Just One Cookbook, Just Bento and No Recipes

Kinpira - Chobits 01 - 03

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