Updated: December 03, 2019
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Japanese Ingredient Guide: Gobo (Burdock Root)

This article will briefly examine the Japanese ingredient called gobo (burdock) and answer questions including: What is gobo? What is gobo sushi? How do you cook gobo? What does burdock root do for the body? and more!

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What is Gobo?

Gobo (牛蒡) is the Japanese word for the 'Greater Burdock,' a plant in the thistle family that can be found around the world. The most commonly eaten part of the plant are the long, slender roots, which resemble sticks. In Japanese cooking, gobo is used as an ingredient in many dishes and is favored for its many health benefits.

How do you Cook Gobo?

When you buy gobo at a store, it is commonly still covered in a thick layer of dirt. This must be washed off before cooking. Some people use the back of a knife or a piece of aluminum foil to help scrape the dirt off.

Should I peel the skin off?

No, most of the flavor is in the outer layer, so it should be left on!
Cut the gobo into slices and soak them in water for about 10 minutes to get rid of the 'aku' (scum).

Then proceed with cooking as your recipe calls for (see the link to the article on kinpira below for a recommended dish to make with gobo).

What is gobo sushi?

Gobo sushi is roll sushi made with pickled burdock root as a filling. It's not one of the most popular or common types of sushi to find, but it is quite nutritious.

What does burdock root do for the body?

Dried burdock for medicinal use
In most countries outside of Japan, burdock root is used exclusively as a medicinal plant. As such, there are many health benefits to be gained from eating the root! In addition to being filled with vitamins and important minerals including calcium, potassium, and magnesium, it also is filled with digestive and inulin fiber. Burdock is used to reduce blood pressure, detoxify the liver, help the function of the digestive system, and even make your skin nicer! It may not be the tastiest vegetable there is, but it's definitely worth eating for the benefits that it provides.

Gobo in Japanese Cuisine

Japan is one of the only countries where gobo is eaten as a food and not exclusively as a medicinal ingredient. Gobo is most often incorporated as a supporting ingredient in various soups and 'nikomi' (braised) dishes. One of the most popular dishes that features the gobo as the star of the dish, however, is called 'kinpira gobo,' shown below. This dish is made by cutting the gobo into thin matchstick-sized pieces and braising them in a fairly sweet sauce, often with carrots. It's a delicious and healthy side dish that goes well with many Japanese meals.
kinpira gobo
I live in west Tokyo and spend most of my time thinking about food or going bouldering.

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