Stir-fried and simmered in a sweet soy sauce, Kinpira Gobo is a traditional Japanese dish made with shredded burdock root and carrot, garnished with sesame seeds. This crunchy and savory root vegetable dish is great to make ahead and serve on a busy weeknight.
Kinpira Gobo (金平牛蒡, きんぴらごぼう) is a classic Japanese side made with gobo burdock root. This humble dish appears frequently in home-cooked meals as it cooks in a flash and can be made ahead of time.
You might not be familiar with the name, but chances are you may have seen it served in the corner of a bento lunch box or at a Japanese-style breakfast buffet during your trip to Japan.
The root vegetables give a nice crunchy texture as you enjoy the sweet and savory flavors. When I make Kinpira Gobo at home, I usually make a lot, saving some for the week (lasts 5-7 days!) in the refrigerator and some for the future in the freezer.
What is Kinpira Gobo
Kinpira Gobo is made with thinly shredded burdock root (gobo), sometimes mixed with another root vegetable like carrot, stir-fried in a frying pan, and seasoned with sweet and savory soy sauce.
Kinpira refers to a cooking style where you first stir fry the ingredients and then simmer them with sugar and soy sauce until the sauce dries out. The most common vegetables used for Kinpira is the combination of gobo and carrot, but lotus root (renkon) is also another popular choice (here’s my Kinpira Renkon recipe).
What is Gobo – A Delicious Root Vegetable
Gobo or burdock root is an edible root vegetable that is very popular in Japan. It has known to be a powerhouse of antioxidants and for its many health-promoting properties. The stalk is long, roughly 20-28 inches (50-70 cm) and weighs about 5 oz (150 gram) and sometimes more.
It stays crunchy even after cooking for a long time, giving a good mouth/facial exercise while you enjoy the unique earthy flavor.
How to Cook Kinpira Gobo
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Gobo (burdock root)
- Sesame oil
- Soy sauce
- Dried red chili (optional, often includes small amount)
- Sesame seeds
Cooking with Sesame Oil
Kinpira is always cooked with sesame oil to give an extra nutty, deep flavor. If you’re not a fan of sesame oil, you can use regular cooking oil.
Spicing Up with Dried Red Chili
Dried red chili pepper (赤唐辛子) is often added to the dish, but it’s optional as the spicy ingredient is still new to the Japanese palate. The chili seeds are almost always discarded.
3 Easy Cooking Steps
- Cut gobo and carrot into julienned strips. It’s a bit tedious but I always think it’s a good practice to cut vegetables. The more you practice, the faster and more precise your cutting technique will be.
- Stir-fry gobo first, until the texture is close to raw carrot texture. Add carrot and cook until both are equally tender.
- Add seasonings and simmer until the liquid dries out.
Helpful Cooking Tips
- Cut gobo and carrot in similar shapes – Both gobo and carrot should be julienned into thin strips, roughly 2 inches (5 cm) in length.
- Soak gobo in water – It’s important to get rid of the astringency of the root vegetable and prevent it from discoloration. Change water at least once.
- Use a larger pan to stir fry – It’s easier to stir/toss gobo.
- Let cool completely– If you are making the dish ahead of time (meal prepping), let it cool completely before storing it in the refrigerator or the freezer.
What to Serve with Kinpira Gobo
Along with steamed rice and miso soup, you can serve this simple vegetable side together with another protein as part of the ‘Ichiju Sansai’ Japanese meal. Here are my suggestions:
- Grilled Mackerel
- Simmered Beef with Ginger
- Garlic Miso Chicken Wings
- Simmered Kiriboshi Daikon
- Green Bean Gomaae
Kinpira Gobo (Braised Burdock Root)
- Gather all the ingredients. I recommend measuring the condiments ahead of time. You can combine sake, mirin, and soy sauce in one bowl.
To Prepare Ingredients
- When you look for gobo, try to find one without dark rings (the sign of old gobo). Unfortunately, I don't always get the best gobo from local grocery stores. Shave off the skin with the back of a knife. We do not use a vegetable peeler because the flavor of the gobo is right under the skin and you don't want to peel that off.
- After shaving, thinly slice the gobo diagonally. The slices should be about 2 inches (5 cm) in length. Then collect some slices and cut them into thin julienne strips.
- Soak the gobo strips in water for 10 minutes, changing water halfway. After 10 minutes, rinse them under cold water and drain well.
- Peel and cut the carrot into thin 2-inch (5 cm) slabs. Then cut them into thin julienne strips.
- Cut the top end of dried red chili pepper and remove seeds by shaking it. Then cut into thin rounds. If you want to make it spicy, add the seeds. In Japanese cooking, we usually discard all the seeds.
To Cook Ingredients
- Heat the sesame oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When it's hot, add the gobo.
- Stir fry gobo until almost tender, roughly 2-3 minutes. If you had trouble cutting gobo into thin pieces (thin pieces will cook faster), it will take a longer time to stir fry. Another option is to add ¼ cup water or dashi and let gobo simmer. When gobo is 50-60% cooked through, add the carrot.
- Continue to stir fry until both carrot and gobo are tender.
- Add sugar, sake, mirin, and soy sauce.
- When the vegetables are coated well with the seasoning, add chili pepper (if you add any). Cook until the cooking liquid evaporates.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds and quickly toss all together. Serve the dish into individual bowls or a large bowl/plate.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days or in the freezer for a month.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 5, 2012. The images and the recipe have been updated in April 2021.