Gobo, is the Japanese word for Burdock root and it is a rather delicious tuber-type vegetable that we like to put in soups mostly – although you can eat it however you like, as long as you prepare it to be edible first.
My mother was able to come visit us all the way in England for Christmas and we made so many lovely things to eat and shared so many precious memories together!
Every year, without fail, I made a big ole’ vat of New Year’s Soup or Ozoni and this is the first year in the last three that I have had any gobo or burdock root to put in it. Basically, its next to impossible to find here (not a very popular ingredient for cooking, more medicinal than anything) and I had to special order it from a small shop in London and the smallest section I have ever seen of it cost nearly double what I spend on a “full-size” stick of gobo root so it was certainly dipping into the ole wallet to make something so near and dear to my heart. My mom even made her own omochi and brought it all the way from the United States to put in our ozoni! Can you tell how important this tradition is for us?
One of these years I will have some lotus root and bamboo to put in it too, but for now, we stuck with our regular ingredients plus the elusive gobo.
You may have heard that burdock root has medicinal properties. If you dig up the root out in the wilderness and chew on it, then it has a numbing and pain relieving quality to it. There was even an episode of Grimm where Monroe gives it to a vessen (Let Your Hair Down) to relieve pain.
So a little guide to preparing your own gobo for a great big bowl of ozoni? You can find the gobo in nearly any Asian market that stocks fresh fruit and veg. My mom “posed” through each step to bring you this guide!
First, scrub the skin on the gobo root thoroughly under cold, running water then peel the skin away and rinse the gobo root in cold water.
Next, cut the gobo root into fourths or roughly 2-3 inch sections. You want them to be about as long as the tines of your fork.
Fill a medium size bowl with vinegar. Just simple, distilled white vinegar will do although you can use whatever clear vinegar you have on hand. Set it near your cutting board.
Take each section and cut it in half. Then thinly slice each of the halves, place the slices in the bowl of vinegar. Repeat until you have cut all the gobo root this way.
Leave the gobo root slices soaking in the vinegar for about ten minutes, stirring either with a spoon or your hands, every now and again until the vinegar has drawn out as much of the dark colored liquid from the gobo root. The vinegar should change from clear to some shade of grey or even black. This makes the gobo root edible.
Once you have finished soaking the gobo root, rinse it thoroughly in cold water and put it in whatever you are making. If you are making ozoni, you want to put the gobo root in just as soon as you have the broth boiling so that it has the most time possible to cook. You want it to be tooth-tender or just al-dente.
That’s it! Easy as that, you have delicious gobo root for your ozoni soup!