Burdock Root Soup

“Ah, monastery soup!” exclaimed Shuho-san.  It does indeed taste like soups served in Japanese training temples. The signature flavour of this recipe is burdock, a long skinny root that grows wild in Europe but has seemingly fallen out of culinary use. In the UK it is more commonly known as a fizzy beverage; Dandelion & Burdock or in the US as Root Beer. (Fermented dandelion and burdock drinks have been around since the middle-ages and reputed to have medicinal qualities.) In Asia, however, burdock (gobō) is often first boiled, drained and stir-fried with carrot and hijiki seaweed then seasoned with sesame oil and soy sauce etc; or put into soup as in this recipe. I simply love the licorice-like flavour.

20 g ginger
5 cm (2 inch) square kelp (kombu) seaweed
4 dried shitake mushroom
1½ litres (8 cups) water

2 medium carrots

1 burdock (gobō) root
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon dried wakame seaweed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
1-2 teaspoons rice vinegar
Sea salt to taste


  • First make the stock; peel and cut the ginger into wafer thin discs then combine the ginger, kombu, and shitake mushrooms with 1½ litres (8 cups) water in a stock pot. Slowly bring to a boil over a low flame.
  • When it starts to boil first remove the kombu and set aside. Next, cover and continue to simmer the stock until the shitake mushrooms are tender, about ten minutes. Remove from the flame. Scoop out the shitake and ginger, and set aside.
  • Peel and cut the carrots into thin matchsticks.
  • Peel the burdock root underwater to avoid browning. Cut into thin matchsticks and immediately submerge in cold water with the white vinegar to avoid discoloration and dispel any bitterness.
  • Thinly slice the shitake mushrooms, removing any hard stems and return to the stock.(Reserve the ginger for another use if you prefer the stock to remain clear, or mince and return to the stock.)
  • Cut the kombu into matchstick slivers.Set aside
  • Cover the wakame with warm water and soak for five minutes, or until it unfolds. Drain, rinse, and roughly chop into medium-sized pieces. Set aside.
  • Drain and rinse the burdock and put it into the stock pot. Return to a boil on a medium flame, then turn down and simmer until the burdock is tender, about fifteen minutes. Skim any scum from the surface as it arises. Put in the carrots and continue to simmer until the carrots are also tender, about another five minutes.
  • Turn off the flame and put in the kombu, soy sauce, and mirin. Then add the rice vinegar one teaspoon at time, to taste.
  • Stir in the wakame. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve.
    Burdock root from the farmers market in Groningen. Black peel on the outside, white on the inside.

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