Friday, May 15, 2009

Burdock Kinpira (Kinpira Gobo)

Burdock Kinpira
Kinpira is a traditional Japanese side dish, in which small striped vegetables are fried with sweet soy sauce. Burdock kinpira is the most well known among all kinpira dishes. People started eating burdock roots about 300 years ago and at the same time kinpira became a typical home made dish. It was named after Kinpira whose father was Kintaro. Kintaro lived more than one thousand years ago and is famous from many children fair tales because of his supernatural capabilities. Since burdock is very healthy and believed to be an excellent source of energy, people named this dish after Kinpira.

Roots of young burdock are one of the most popular root vegetables in Japan. In China dried burdock roots have been used as an anti-fever and cough remedy for centuries. This vegetable is an excellent source of dietary fiber, zinc, potassium and vitamins B1 and B2. It helps to clean the stomach and intestines and to avoid constipation. Also it is high in inulin (a type of naturally occurring sugar in some plants not to be confused with insulin which is a hormone that affects metabolism), which can help to manage diabetes. However, in most of the European countries, they are treated just as weeds.

Sadly, I have not seen burdock roots in any regular grocery store here in Louisiana except in some Asian stores. Even thought I can find them in one local Asian store, most of the time, I always question the freshness of the vegetable.

The other day, I found some nice looking burdock roots at one of the Asian markets in my place. My friend, who is a nutritionist from Japan, suggested that they were fresh enough. Thus, I purchased one bag of burdock roots, nearly 2 lb, and decided to cook burdock kinpira.

Although burdock roots were not as fresh as I wanted, I really enjoyed burdock kinpira. I do not remember when I had kinpira for the last time. When I was in Japan, this dish was a common one on our family’s dinner table or in a lunch box. It reminds me of my mother’s cooking. I truly wish that people can appreciate the benefits of eating burdock roots and in the near future this vegetable would be available in many stores.

Using burdock roots and carrots is a typical combination. However, adding chicken, pork, or green beans can be more nutritious and also may become the main dish. Serve with rice!

1 lb burdock
2 carrots
1 red pepper
2 teaspoon roasted sesame (both white and black sesame are fine.)
3 tbsp sesame oil (any oil for frying is fine.)

Ingredients for sweet soy sauce:
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sake
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sugar

Scrape off the skin of the burdocks. Do not peel off since the skin has a lot of flavor.
Cut into 1.5 inch-long small sticks. Put them in a bowl and add water until all the burdock sticks are covered. Add 1 tbsp of rice vinegar. Leave them for about 10 minutes in order to remove their natural harshness.
Peel the skin of the carrots and cut them into small sticks of the same size as the burdock sticks.
Slice off the stalk and remove the seeds of the red pepper. Cut into small rings.
Heat the sesame oil in a pot. Drain the burdock sticks well. Fry them along with the carrot sticks for 2-3 minutes. Add the ingredients for sweet sauce and the red pepper. Continuously fry for another 5 munities until all the sauce is gone.
Transfer to serving plates. Sprinkle them with the roasted sesame before serving.

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