I was always told that potlucks were named as such because you were lucky if everyone brought a pot of something to share.
Our department hosted a potluck to kick off the start of the Lunar New Year today, and I'm now wondering if the really lucky part of a potluck is actually less about having enough to eat and more about the discovery of new dishes.
Foodwise, we got pretty lucky. Ryn brought pork and sautéed pea shoots. Kate made a tasty cold peanut noodle salad, I brought dumplings and a candy-filled golden carp from Kam Man on Canal Street, Alvin brought custards and pork buns from an apparentmob-scene New Year crowd in the Flushing outlet of the Tai Pan Bakery. Kristin picked up some tasty green tea ice cream. And Tomi made a delightful tofu-ginger dish and a very tasty salad of chewy, crunchy, spicy burdock root... a veggie I'd never really used before.
We cranked up the traditional Chinese music for ambiance (thank you, internet!) and compared the various virtues of our signs in the Chinese Zodiac. Despite a dumpling mishap, a good time was had by all.
I think our potluck did, in fact, make us feel lucky. We were lucky to enjoy the company of our coworkers. We were lucky to have food before us. And I know I felt very lucky when Tomi said she'd share her burdock root salad recipe.
After lunch we got email from Ms. T:
I’ll try to approximate amounts as best I can... but this was always a ‘stand next to mom at the stove and watch’ kind of thing. I know she has a Japanese-American church bazaar cookbook with a recipe... and those amounts never seemed like enough to me.
I went online and found: In addition to its healing qualities, burdock is a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, folacin and fiber.
Having not had mama's salad or the church bazaar version, I can say we were all huge fans of Tomi's amped-up gobi salad.
And lucky for all involved, Ms. Tomi was kind enough to offer up not only her salad recipe, but also an accompanying poem from Ms. Shirley Kishiyama, her mum, which was published in American Tanka magazine, spring, 1999:
burdock root darkens
my fingers as I cut small sticks
bitter taste from my youth
I long for the taste of earth
I long for the crunch, crunch, crunch
Even if you've never had burdock and won't recall the taste from your youth or the crunch, crunch, crunch in your mind's memory, after trying this salad, I think you'll empathize (as I now do) with the longing. I think burdock is just one of those vegetables that encourages one to reminisce.
After you're through chopping up the burdock root, this salad looks simple enough to make. You could certainly turn down the heat if you're not a fan of spice.
I suspect the only tricky part for most people will likely be tracking down burdock root. You could probably use a root like celeriac as a substitute. Carrot would offer a slightly sweeter end result.
Tomi's Spicy Kimpira Gobo (or Kinpira Gobo)
3 stalks burdock (gobo) root, each about 2 1/2-feet long, cut into 2-inch long matchsticks. (I buy my gobo at Dynasty Supermarket @ the corner of Elizabeth and Hester.)
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
1 cup coriander (cilantro) leaves, rinsed and dried
Large bowl of cold water
Large sauté pan
Working one half of a root at a time:
- Peel burdock root.. there will be natural brown spots on the white flesh, but it's all gravy.
- Cut the root into 2-inch lengths.
- Cut each 2-inch section lengthwise into 4 slices.
- Cut slices lengthwise into 3 to 4 matchstick-sized pieces.
- Promptly put matchsticks in bowl of water to keep from browning — some browning will occur, but not to worry!
- I like to give the gobo a second spin in some new cold water at this point, just to knock off any residual dirt.
- Drain gobo in colander right before cooking.
1. In a large pan heat oil over medium-high heat until very hot.
2. Add gobo to oil and sauté.
3. As gobo is just beginning to turn translucent, add sugar and toss to coat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring regularly so you don’t burn the sugar but get a nice caramelization goin’ on.
4. Add shoyu, toss to coat and cook until most of the shoyu has been cooked into the gobo or evaporated — approximately 5 minutes.
5. Add cayenne and crushed red pepper. Toss to coat and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings.
6. When all is said and done, you should see a nice, shiny, dark brown gloss on the gobo.
7. Let cool completely before adding coriander leaves. Serve at room temp or cold.
Gung hei fat choi!