Up until about a year and a half ago, burdock root was not something that I had used extensively in cooking. Like at all. These long-slender roots are about 2 to 3 feet long, up to an inch in diameter, and jam-packed with some outstandingly earthy flavors. They pair perfectly with mushrooms to produce a rich, woodsy flavor that your really should try. This dish, uses both, accepted by the mellow taste of leeks to great effect. In my case, I used just cremini mushrooms, but this dish is excellent when you use a wide variety of mushrooms; shitake, oyster mushrooms, enoki. I use a kamado-san donabe for preparation for a couple of reasons: firstly, the even heat steams the rice to perfection; secondly, it is just a super-cool pot; but most importantly, the even heat from the clay steams the rice but does not overcook the mushrooms or the leeks. One of these days, I will get around to writing something about the relative merits of this particular pot. Burdock root is available at most Asian grocery stores, and is identifiable as a long, brown root, usually bundled in sets of 2 or 3, wrapped in plastic wrap. cut into convenient lengths and placed in a gallon ziploc, it keeps for a very long time in the refrigerator.
Now I understand that not everyone has (or wants to have) such a specialized pot; it may not fit in with how you work in your kitchen. This dish is easily prepared in a standard rice cooker or on the stove-top in a saucepan. Preparation by each method is discussed below. There are no real tricks to cooking it; just give it shot. If the ingredients turn out overcooked to your taste, try to add them later in the cooking process, just as the rice transitions from being boiled to being steamed. Trust me, even if you don’t get your idea of perfection on the first try, you will get something that has a lovely flavor. I am particularly, interested in trying this with brown rice, which I do not typically cook with. If you get to it before I do, drop a comment below and let me know how you like it.
At lunch, we served this with some smoked chicken wings and shrimp with lemongrass and chili. Because the rice is sweet and earthy, it is a good dish to serve with something somewhat spicy. If you don’t have anything spicy, or don’t want that sort of flavor, the sauteed kale is a nice addition, particularly if you drizzle it with Concentrated Soy Sauce.
- 2 measuring cups rice (about 1½ cups standard)
- 3 oz. burdock root, finely chopped
- 1½ cup mixed mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 medium leek, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 cup chicken stock (about 250 ml)
- 2 Tbs. sake
- 2 Tbs. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. mirin
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- ½ tsp. salt
- 3 oz. kale, coarsely chopped
- 1 Tbs. sesame oil, for frying kale
- If preparing in rice cooker, rinse rice well and place in pot with burdock. Stir to combine and add the liquids and salt, making up difference in fluid level to reach fluid fill line for 2 cups with water. Layer mushrooms and then leeks on top and cook on setting appropriate for the type of rice used.
- To prepare in a pot (including kamado-san), rinse rice well and place in pot with burdock. Combine the fluids and salt in a measuring cup and bring up to 400 ml with water. Allow to soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Layer mushrooms and leeks on top and cover with lid. Bring to boil over medium high heat. Maintain boil for 1 to 2 minutes and decrease heat to low (or in the case of kamado-san, remove from heat entirely). Allow to steam for 20 minutes prior to serving.
- Prepare a topping of greens by frying the coarsely chopped kale in the sesame oil. Mound on top of rice prior to serving.