Key Ingredient


Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Ingredient of the week


As the year comes to a close, many local families focus on traditional New Year's feasts. For the Japanese, that means nishime, ozoni and osechi ryori, among other dishes.

Gobo is among the many vegetables that serve an integral part of ringing in the New Year. This unique root is available year-round, but the freshest product can be found this time of the year.

The basics: Gobo, or burdock root, is a slender, carrot-like root vegetable that grows wild in parts of Asia, Europe and the United States. Originally, gobo was thought of as a kind of herb in China and was used for medicinal purposes to purify blood and treat gout, ulcers, arthritis and rheumatism. The Chinese believed it was also useful in treating impotence and sterility. The root was introduced to Japan from China and is now a very popular vegetable, especially during the New Year's celebration.

Gobo ranges in length from 18 inches to 2 feet and about 1 inch in diameter. The skin is dark brown and generally coated with some soil. It may not look appealing, but it is very tasty, with a pleasantly sweet, nutty flavor. Gobo is also high in iron and a good source of dietary fiber.

Selecting: Choose roots that are firm and heavy for their size. Look out for brown spots, blemishes and shriveling. Roots that are too large may be woody and fibrous.

Storing: Gobo can be left in a cool, dry place for a couple of days or refrigerate for up to five days. Do not peel until ready to use.

Use: Rinse gobo and peel the thin skin, or scrape it off with a knife, and rinse thoroughly again. Gobo will begin to discolor as soon as it is peeled, so soak in water or a mild vinegar solution.

Chop or slice according to use. Gobo is popular in stewed dishes such as nishime, or in a tasty side dish called kinpira. Gobo is also perfect for a stir-fry. Try it julienned with shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots.

Where to buy: Gobo can be found year-round in most markets, but becomes more abundant toward the end of the year. Prices range from $2.99 to $4.99 a pound, with good sales popping up the week before New Year's.

Food Stuffs: Morsels

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