Seriously Asian: Burdock Root Recipe

Burdock roots on a table.

Serious Eats / Chichi Wang

Pictured here is burdock, a slender, brown-skinned root vegetable that grows to more than two feet in length. In markets and restaurants, pickled burdock root is often sold as an accompaniment to sushi or rice meals. But in Japanese cookery, burdock is an all-purpose vegetable that's added to stews, stir-fried, and pickled.

With a pleasantly crunchy texture, burdock has a sweet flavor that's similar to lotus root, though its taste is distinctive enough to make it worth the trouble of seeking it out and preparing it. The texture of burdock is also unique: meaty and crispy, with a certain chew that's hardier than that of most root vegetables.

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While burdock is not difficult to cook, it does require time to manage the thick layer of grit that clings to the surface. You can take off the dirt by intensive scrubbing, though doing so may still miss some of the dirt in the crevices. Instead of scrubbing, I like to peel away the skin after the root has been given a preliminary wash. Burdock also discolors easily, so keep a bowl of ice water with a splash of vinegar on hand so that all prepped and cut portions can be kept refreshed in the bowl.

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Burdock kinpira is a simple and homey dish—its richness makes it a welcome complement to meals served with rice. Strips of burdock are stir-fried in oil or fat, then simmered until softened. The only seasonings added to the dish are sake, soy sauce and sugar, but that's all that's needed to enhance the naturally sweet and complex flavor of the root.

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Burdock is also one of my favorite vegetables to pickle. You'll sometimes find pickled burdock as an accompaniment to sushi. In Japanese markets, pickled burdock comes in packages; the root is usually dyed an orange color, though the interior is naturally white. Since burdock is denser than most pickling candidates, I like to parboil the root for two minutes prior to beginning the pickling process. Though komezu, or rice vinegar, is usually used, at home you can vary the kinds of vinegar to add to your pickling mixture I like a combination of komezu and red wine vinegar, which imparts a deeper taste; sherry vinegar is also an option.

Recipe Facts

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 11 mins
Total: 16 mins
Serves: 3 to 4 servings

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Ingredients

For Burdock Kinpira:

  • 2 burdock roots, approximately one foot in length

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil or fat

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon sake

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

For Pickled Burdock:

  • 3 tablespoons mirin

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons komezu (rice wine vinegar)

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 burdock roots, approximately one foot in length

Directions

  1. Wash and peel the burdock root. Cut the root into 4 inch length segments, then quarter each root lengthwise. Place the prepped root in a ice water bath with a splash of vinegar as you go along.

  2. Place a saute pan over medium heat and add the oil. Saute the burdock root for 4 to 6 minutes, until the roots is lightly browned.

  3. Add the sake, soy sauce and sugar. Simmer the mixture for another 5 minutes, until the burdock is cooked through but still crispy. Serve at room temperature or cold.

  4. To pickle burdock root:

    Wash and peel the burdock root. Cut the root into 4 inch length segments, then quarter each root lengthwise. Place the prepped root in a ice water bath with a splash of vinegar as you go along.

  5. Bring a pot of water to boil. Parboil cut and skinned segments of burdock for 2 minutes. Drain, then immediately plunge back into the ice water bath.

  6. In the meantime, combine the ingredients for the brine in a plastic bag and shake around to mix. Remove the burdock from the ice bath and place into the brine in the plastic bag. Refrigerate the bag overnight, taking care that all the pieces of burdock are immersed in the brine. You may need to weigh the bag down with something heavier in order to get an even distribution of liquid. The pickles will keep in the bag for up to a week.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
127 Calories
4g Fat
22g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 127
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 441mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 22g 8%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 2mg 9%
Calcium 38mg 3%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 291mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)