Prior to that defining moment, my only experience with gobo was watching my grandma whittle shavings off the tip with a small paring knife. I have no idea what she did with the gobo shavings, but I certainly don't remember kimpira.
Part of the "charisma" of kimpira is the way the gobo is shredded. Too thick, and the maker appears clumsy and lacking knife skills. Too short appears as thought the maker didn't take enough time to cut the gobo correctly. While I am quick to criticize, I have never made gobo kimpira. I'll leave that to the okazu-ya pros and Japanese grandmas out there. But this post is not about gobo!
Somehow, I have not been able to bring myself to buy gobo. I wouldn't know how to select pieces, and I often wonder who first ate gobo. Those roots are mighty long and thin. Was there really nothing ABOVE ground to eat?
There are times now, when I drive on Komohana Street and get hit with the gobo kimpira smell. Often, its inconvenient to go to an okazu-ya at that very moment to get a scoop of it. I remembered seeing a recipe for kimpira made with potatoes instead of gobo. I called Mom to ask her if she knew which cookbook to look in. . .I own close to 300 cookbooks so I needed some help. Unfortunately, she said she never heard of such a thing. I guess she really didn't take me seriously because she added, "kimpira is made with gobo, not potato!". No help there.
Since I was determined to find the recipe, I began looking through the likely suspects. Thirteen was the lucky number . . . found it in the thirteenth book I pulled, some Japanese church cookbook. I made a few changes to the recipe ingredients because I wanted the kimpira to have a stronger taste. What I like is that the cooking can be controlled to keep the potato crunchy. What I especially like is that I don't need to run down to KTA to buy gobo!
I shared some of the potato with Aunty Betty (of corned beef hash fame), and she loved it. She did issue a caveat, and that was to not use the word "kimpira", as it sets up an expectation of taste. She was right. The potato was actually very similar to the shredded potato in the Bi Bim Bap served at Sato's Lunch Shop (Hilo, circa 1990s).
So here are some tips for making spicy shredded potatoes.
|1. Use the julienne disc of a food processor, if available. An alternative to this might be a Japanese crank shredded. This magical tool is used to make those wonderful curly potatoes for your copycat version of Pietro's raw potato salad.|
|2. Do not omit the step of soaking the potato shreds in ice water. This step removes the surface starch. If left on, you will end up with a gluey mess instead of discrete strands.|
|3. Use a salad spinner to partially dry the potato shreds before patting dry with a paper towel. You'll save on the amount of paper towels you use.|