Spicy-salty-sweet kinpira, crunchy vegetables that are quicky stir-fried and optionally simmered, are perfect for bento. So far I have given you carrot kinpira  and forgotten vegetable kinpira , but Japanese food purists might have noticed that I haven’t posted a recipe for classic kinpira gobo (or goboh). There’s a simple reason for this: here in Switzerland, the only gobo or burdock root that I can get in the stores is an exorbitantly priced frozen version. But recently I was able to get my hands on some fresh gobo (no I didn’t smuggle it from Hawaii!) - so here, finally, is kinpira gobo.
Incidentally, this is what my fresh gobo or burdock roots look like:
Burdock root is very high in fiber, and has an earthy taste. The roots are slim and about 60-70cm (about 2 to 2 1/2 feet) long, and a light brown in color. Commercially grown burdock root doesn’t have a tough skin, so all you need to do is to scrub it well with a stiff vegetable brush or scrape it with a vegetable peeler. It has some bitterness, so it’s usually soaked in water before cooking.
By the way, I’m not suggesting that you should go out of your way to make kinpira gobo, if you can’t find burdock root in your area. As I’ve shown in my other kinpira recipes, the method can be adapted to many vegetables. The reason why kinpira gobo is ubiquitous in Japan is that burdock root is a very inexpensive standard vegetable. If you can get burdock root easily where you are though and you’ve never tried kinpira gobo, I hope you will. For me it was a rare and wonderful treat.
Kinpira gobo has carrot in it as well as burdock root. There should be about 4 parts burdock root to 1 part carrot, which comes out to about 1 burdock root to 1 small to medium carrot.
1/2 cup of this comes to around 50-60 calories.
Cut the burdock root into 5 cm / 2 1/2 inch or so long pieces. Slice each piece lengthwise then cut into matchsticks. Put the burdock root pieces in a bowl with enough water to cover, and let soak for a few minutes. Drain away the water, and refill the bowl with fresh water. Soak a few minutes more then drain. Pat the burdock root dry with kitchen or paper towels.
Cut the carrot into matchsticks too. There’s no need to soak the carrots.
Heat up a wok or large frying pan with the sesame oil. Add the burdock root and carrot piecs, and sauté briefly, tossing to coat the pieces with oil. Add the chili pepper flakes and toss. Add the sugar, mirin and soy sauce and about 1/2 cup of water. Lower the heat to medium, and continue cooking and stirring until the moisture has disappeared from the pan. Taste a piece of burdock root for doneness: it should be crisp-tender. If it’s too crunchy for you, add a bit more water and cook some more.
Kinpira gobo keeps in the refrigerator for a few days. It can also be frozen, wrapped in individual portions.
(And yes, I’m back to regular posting!)