died in the wool ______

To have no set purpose in one's life is the harlotry of the will -Stephen Mackenna-

Monday, October 03, 2005

Burdock Root

I still remember the first time I saw Gobo. Called Burdock Root in English, it was in the produce section of the co-op near where I lived in Minneapolis. I thought this big long thread of a vegetable was so cool.

Of course, I walked right by it because I had absolutely no idea how to prepare it.

I'm a bit older and hopefully a little wiser now, and I now know how great gobo actually is. It can add great depth and earthy hartiness to foods and dishes remeniscent of red meat perhaps.

Gobo is most often served shredded with an equal amount of shredded carrot and other things in Kimpira Gobo salad. My first exposure to Gobo was an up-scale-ish fast food resturant here called mos burger. At Mos Burger they serve your average meat burger, but they also have something unique (to non-japanese anyway) called rice burgers. the 'bun' is rice and in my case the filling was kimpira gobo all tied to together with a piece of rolled sushi-style seaweed, and I still remember being a study abroad student trundling down from the Waseda University Int'l Division with some classmates and so looking forward to my kimpira gobo rice burger.

Gobo is also great eaten just like french fries. Cut and prepared the exact same way, the mellow flavor is a great alternative to the starchiness of potatoes. These can be found at some bars and even family resturants here. At a place frequented very often by my office at the time, my supervisor recommended to me something called 'pari pari salad', which was fried gobo and thinly cut lotus root. It came with a wedge of lemon (to squeeze juice on with of course), and I would devour batch after batch of this stuff. The tart lemon juice with the mellow flavor of the gobo became a staid favorite, and I still wish I could find a place that sells it here in Tokyo, although I could just as easily make it myself.

One of the most unique uses I've seen for Gobo was in a recipe for a tofu burger. Unlike the US, there are not a lot of premade, vegetarian 'burger'-type products avaliable here.

You can, however, often find tofu burgers here. Don't let that fool you into thinking it's vegetarian though; it's only to add an image of health. Chicken (and worse) are often frequently added. Lucky for me, I found a great recipe that doesn't have meat in it. The gobo and Nira Onions add a grounded earth tone flavor to these that make them unusally tasty in my opinion. I initially saw this on Japan's version of PBS, NHK, on a very popular show called Kyou no Ryouri (Today's Cooking). The tofu burger was also prepared with a wine and ketchup sauce which is so good if you just consider it to be ketchup spiked with wine rather than being an actual sauce. I often reduce the sauce by simmering the tofu burgers in it and using it like ketchup when I eat it.

This is not immediately obvious, but it's important to press as much water out of the tofu as possible. One way of doing this is to put a plate on top of and underneath a block of tofu wrapped in a towel. This may take some time (maybe an hour), but you can do it unattended (plate acrobatics notwithstanding):

Makes 4 patties

1 Cube soft tofu, water removed and crumbled with hands
1 bunch nira onions, cut in 1 inch segments
equal amounts of gobo shredded
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 red wine.

Mix tofu, gobo and Nira onions in a bowl, until combined. Form into patties (smaller is better). Using a teflon pan add a small amount of butter or oil and fry the patties, taking care not to let them fall apart. While cooking, combine ketchup and wine, and add to pan after the patties have been flipped. Serve.


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