Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a picky eater. It started in childhood, and coupled with my food allergies and sensitivities, it has caused some boring dinners for my very understanding and much more adventurous husband.
Working at a food co-op for so many years has made me much more open to trying new things – I will actually try things now that I never would have dreamed of as a teenager, and cooking the things that I don’t like has really helped open me up to all the delicious possibilities out there. Kinpira is something my husband Michael made a lot when we first started dating because he really loved it, and for the last decade I have effectively banned it from our household – until yesterday, when I made a batch of Burdock, Carrots and Leeks from Debra Daniels-Zeller’s Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.
Her recipe for Burdock, Carrots and Leeks (otherwise known, minus the leeks, as Kinpira gobo) intrigued me because it was a different flavor profile than I was used to regarding this dish. I still wasn’t sure that I was going to like it, but Michael was excited at the prospect of eating kinpira again so I went for it.
I decided to julienne the root veggies, as this is how he always made it (and, honestly, we’ve been watching the Food Network show Worst Cooks in America and I wanted to prove to myself that I could julienne with the best of them!).= I used mirin (a sweet cooking sake) instead of regular sake or white wine, and omitted the honey and (optional) butter so it would be vegan.= I was still skeptical until I put that first bite in my mouth and it was perfect – lightly crunchy, and slightly sweet while still being savory. Ooops, I had just made something I don’t like, and it was delicious!
Customers were also skeptical at first, but I am proud to tell you that I (and Debra’s recipe) changed a few minds yesterday when I sampled the dish. Not everyone knew what burdock was (until I explained how it grows all over the place here in the summer), but I didn’t have a single person who tried the dish tell me that they didn’t like it, and half of my tasters walked away with the recipe and plans on how they would trick their families into eating the plant that inspired Velcro!
BURDOCK, CARROTS and LEEKS (aka Kinpira)
Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook (used with permission)
- 2 c water
- 1/2 t sea salt
- 2 T rice vinegar
- 2 medium burdock roots (1/2—3/4 #)
- 1 T extra virgin olive oil
- 1 T butter (optional)
- 1 medium leek, white part only, sliced into matchstick and washed thoroughly
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1/4 c sake, mirin or white wine
- 1 t honey (optional, omit if using mirin)
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- Finely chopped curly parsley
- Combine the water, salt and vinegar in a bowl.
- Peel and julienne (cut into matchstick-sized pieces) burdock root and place it in the bowl of water to soak while you prepare your other vegetables.
- Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, butter (if desired), and the leek. Stir and cook until softened, 2-3 minutes.
- Drain the burdock and add to the skillet, along with the carrots.
- Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the wine/mirin (and honey, if using).
- Cook until the alcohol has mostly evaporated and the burdock and carrots are tender, but still have some bite and texture to them.
- Season with nutmeg to taste, and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
You can also grate the burdock and carrots for a quicker cooking time, although if you will be eating this dish with chopsticks, julienning the vegetables will work better in the end.
Traditional Kinpira uses sesame oil instead of olive oil (and no butter), and is seasoned with shoyu and mirin. Try adding the following to your dish if you use traditional ingredients (carrots and burdock, minus the leek): lotus root, arame, hijiki. You can also make this into a main dish by adding tofu, seitan, and/or pork.