Burdock is not something found in the typical western diet. In fact, even the Chinese, who eat everything, don’t generally eat burdock. It’s only inroads to our diet usually comes in the form of tea. And this is a shame, since burdock is a wonderfully healthy treat, and a good supplemental source of magnesium, fiber and vitamin B6. 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of gobo have 38 milligrams of magnesium, about 11-12% of you daily requirement.
It’s called “gobo” in Japan, and so that’s what we’ll call it here. The trick with gobo is to get over the appearance. It is a long root, and when pulled from the ground it looks like a stick of wood rather than something delicious and filled with an earthy umami flavor.
And, almost as important, be sure to boil it before eating. Otherwise you really will feel as though you are eating tree bark. The best way to prepare it is to cut it into strips, julienne style. Do this if you plan to eat it directly.
(Gobo is also an excellent addition to soups and stews, giving them extra earthy flavor much like a good mushroom would. If you are using it this way, just cut off once inch portions as needed and add them to the pot.)
Once you have washed and julienned the gobo, it’s time to boil it.
Basically, you do this until it’s tender. Maybe 5 minutes or so is enough. Taste a sample and see if you can chew it without too much trouble. If it’s to stringy or fibrous, give it more time.
Once it’s tender enough to chew you have your gobo ready to go. From this point, there are a variety of ways to go, you can pickle it with sugar, you can deep fry it, you can add it to any saute dish. Two of the most common options in Japan are sauted with carrots, sesame oil and chili peppers, often with some pork added. The second option is gobo salad. In the case, you simply add mayonnaise and carrots (and whatever else you fancy). This can be eaten by itself, or added to a sandwich. The first time I had gobo in a sandwich, it was on top of chicken salad and lettuce. I’d still highly recommend this combination. In my case, I’m happy to make a snack of gobo salad on bread. It fabulous.