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Gobo: A Proud Member of the Tempura Family

If you had to name a Western vegetable that was close to the gobo, you might settle on the carrot, but you’d still be far off the mark. Gobo is a root vegetable that is harvested generally when it is no less than 30 centimeters long, but it can grow to as long as a full meter. Once denuded, cut up, sliced, or julienned, then soaked for five or ten minutes to dispense with the vaguely muddy mutterings, you are ready to go! And oh the places you will go with this simple root.

Gobo purists will swear up and down that gobo tempura is the business. And they just may be right. First, the prepped gobo is gently boiled in a soup broth that also includes soy sauce, sugar, and sake. Flavors permeated and gobo softened, the gobo is allowed to fully cool off before moving on to the frying phase. After a quick tempura batter dip, the gobo is fried at 170 C until the metamorphosis from plain, batter-clad vegetable to magical fried happiness is complete, which considering the miracles at play, doesn’t take very long at all. Top it off with a bit of salt, savor, repeat.

Tempura not giving you enough gobo? Have a seat, because we have more to talk about. Kinpira gobo is a great for snacking, be it as an otoshi (a little starter taste presented at some Japanese restaurants), or as otsumami (something to eat while drinking alcohol). Prepped gobo is julienned, then sautéed with julienned carrots in sesame seed oil (you knew the carrot and gobo marriage was coming, didn’t you?). Once soft, some sake is added, then a low-heat flavor immersion gets put into effect with the help from our friends soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar. A sprinkling of roasted sesame seeds at time of serving makes for a nice touch, and this dish works well either at room temperature or chilled.

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