Shun and Burdock gobo

Posted on Mar 21, 2012 in Hiroko's Blog

Suddenly in the past couple of days in NYC we are enjoying (with a big ?; we did not have a real cold usual winter) spring like weather. Some people are already switching sweater and coat to tank top and summer dress. Now I am eagerly waiting for lamps at our local Union Square farmers market. Lamps has become my shun favorite at early spring after moving to NYC 13 years ago. Here is a part of shun description, an excerpt from my upcoming book, Hiroko’s American Kitchen: Cooking with Japanese Flavors/ 6 easy sauces/125 modern recipes. I will post the excerpt of this story in several batches.

Shun: The Peak of Flavor – From Hiroko’s American Kitchen
“Shun is a Japanese word given to food items that are at the peak of their seasonal availability and quality. The word shun has no equivalent in the English language and shows our near religious obsession with what we eat in each season. Japan’s geography and climate surely helped to shape this unique food culture. For example, asparagus becomes shun in early summer. Shun asparagus is bursting with flavor and has a tender and moist texture. In order to enjoy shun asparagus, we apply the absolute minimum cooking time and minimal flavoring ingredients. The shun concept applies not only to fruits and vegetables, but to seasonal seafood as well.” continues to next blog.

While I lived in Japan I loved tender textured, sweet and earthy burdock which appears at the beginning of April. I always made kinpira gobo with these tender burdock. This Monday I had an urge to make it (I wanted to eat it), so went to the Japanese supermarket and bought two long, thick and sturdy-looking roots. I cooked it the way which I show it in The Japanese Kitchen (page 241-242), except one revision. By the way to make julienned burdock you have to have a julienne peeler. Go to my Product page and find the julienne peeler. This one is the best julienne peelers among many which I have tested. Here is the photo of Kinpira gobo which I made. Here is the revision of the recipe. Before adding julienned burdock to the wok or skillet to cook with oil, cook it in water (water should barely cover the burdock) for about 4-5 minutes. Drain them and add to the wok or skillet to stir-fry. By taking this step in advance, you can omit the water and reduce the oil used in the recipe to half. This version tastes less oily with the same great flavor and texture (crunchiness).