Friday, February 13, 2009

Adventures at Mealtime

For those of you who like exploring new and exotic foods, here's one that may pique your interest.

Last night we had the root of a plant known as the edible burdock (niupang). The taste and texture of the raw root is similar to a coconut but not creamy. It is mildly sweet, and crunchy like a daikon radish.

This cross section looks like the classic textbook image of a dicot root system. I do believe the pink ring is the cork cambium. This segment of the burdock came from a plant my parents planted last summer. The ones you usually see in supermarkets have much slimmer roots—about 1-2 inches in diameter (this one was probably 4-5 inches)—but are probably more tender.

For those of you familiar with the taproot system, you can imagine how large this plant was before we dug it up. Here are a couple of pictures I took of it back in July 2008:

Burdock on the right, onions on the left.

I tried to stick my foot in for comparison. The leaves were HUGE!

After cutting it all up, it was still a lot of fiber!

We stir-fried it with broccoli stems and made a salad. (The salad dressing was home-made honey mustard) A delicious and fibrous meal!

Speaking of broccoli—here's a little critter I found while chopping the flowers off for the salad. It was so well camouflaged that I didn't see it until I was cutting off the stems immediately next to it. I think it's a crystalis of some sort.

The broccoli also came from my parents' garden, and these little guys are just another sign of pesticide-free produce! I had a bug-eating experience once (I'll blog about that some other time) so I'm no longer freaked out by critters on my food. Except earwigs. (EWW)

I placed it in a clean spice jar because it was small and had holes in the cap. I'm hoping that a butterfly will eclose (emerge). The broccoli had been sitting in my fridge for about a week, so I wonder if bringing it out will simulate the arrival of spring...

To anyone who has read this far—what's an interesting food experience you've had? Tried anything new recently? What were your thoughts about eating something you've never ate before?


  1. Related to burdock:

    There is a traditional korean dish that uses burdock root. I had no idea what it tastes like raw, but the final product is sort of salty and sweet.

    There was a man at my old church who would refuse to eat it, because he said that monks ate it to reduce their libido. He works for the government XD

    Usually I try to be adventurous about food, since I *really* enjoy eating. However, I find that smell and presentation are super important, so if it doesn't look/smell good to me, then it's not likely that I'll eat it. I tend to regurgitate my food easily, so if it smells/tastes like alcohol or melon or is too fishy, then I can't really eat it. In the case of melon, I can't eat/drink/smell it at all.

  2. I'd love to try it in traditional chinese/korean/japanese cooking because I really like the taste and (supposed) health benefits. We didn't really know how to cook it, but I thought it was awesome that what we ate looked like a giant log. Loss of libido, though? Hmmm... :\

    I've never really given presentation much thought, but you're right—it probably affects how we perceive the food. To me, melons don't particularly have a pungent smell or taste; what is so revolting about them?