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Dec 8, 2006 09:24 AM

Pickled Burdock Sushi - Why Is It Orange?

I love sushi and I love burdock (gobo); hence I believe that pickled burdock sushi is one of life's best treats.

But I am perplexed by the deep orange color of the pickled burdock - it looks exactly like a carrot. Any Japanese food experts out there who know why they bother to dye the stuff orange and how they accomplish it? Kind of reminds me of my adolescent cake cooking experiments when I dyed cake batter weird colors, just because I could.

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  1. Gobo in sushi is not standard Japanese. I've never seen it and my Japanese wife says she's only seen it once overseas somewhere and it was brown in color. Where did you encounter pickled gobo sushi? In Japan?..

    Pickled carrot is a standard Japanese "o-shinko" vegetable though and it's sometimes shredded up.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Silverjay

      I've never been to Japan, but our favorite local sushi bar is pretty authentic, and he uses pickled gobo in a lot of ways. I like it in some hand rolls - it adds crunch, and an interesting flavor. I agree with OP, it's one of my favorite things.

      I've seen it for sale at Mitsuwa markets. It's packed in plastic and in the same refrigerated case with other pickled vegetables.

      1. re: Silverjay

        I've seen this stuff in Los Angeles. I don't remember ever seeing it in Japan.

        I've bought fresh gobo root and it's whitish-brown. This stuff at the sushi bar looks exactly like pickled carrot, but they call it burdock unless they are deceiving. And when I asked one sushi chef why it was bright orange, he said dye.

        1. re: omotosando

          Sounds like either something particular to the U.S., or obscure in Japan that has become popular here. I'll keep an eye out for it.

      2. I think it is orange to make it more attractive, similar to pickled daikon being colored yellow with tumeric.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Alan408

          Yeah, Japanese like their tsukemono colored. There's the red dyed ginger (beni shoga) you sometimes get with chirashi sushi or tonkatsu, the cucumber pickles (nukazuke) that are sometimes made a brighter green with a little blue food coloring and gari is sometimes dyed pink (though some is naturally that color). Umeboshi is sometimes stained red, too.

        2. Here's a picture of Gobo Pickles that my friend Nelson Yip prepares at Aozora Restaurant in Montclair, NJ. Delicious!

          1. Here you can see a Japanese Company that describes the pickled gobo as being dyed orange:

            1. Pickled gobou (Burdock Root) was originally done misozuke style (a pickling method done with red miso) after 3 months or more of being immersed, the vegetables are taken out of the miso (usually red miso, called akamiso) it tends to impart a natural orange color to the vegetable) Today pickled gobou is mainly done in brine with vinegar and chemical coloring. As for it not being Japanese, it most certainly is Japanese. However, It is served in few restaurants around Japan and it is not available everywhere and it is not as commonly found as other Japanese pickles are at most grocery stores.