Well, folks, my renkon from last week is gone.
As advised by the friendly vegetable man at the market, I made the crunchy, young end into kinpira. I used the same kinpira recipe that I use for burdock, modifying only the way the vegetables were cut. One of renkon‘s best qualities is its shape, so I cut it into thin disks. The carrot cooked faster than the renkon, so I would advise cutting the carrot in slightly thicker pieces. The result? Two days of delicious bentos.
With the middle section, I decided to experiment. I cut it into thick disks and stuffed the holes with vegetables, cheese and herbs. The result was… well, let’s just say it has promise. Unfortunately, it needs more work before I can post it here.
For now, here’s a renkon recipe that will work for any section of the root. Renkon burgers are a great way to use the fat section furthest away from the tip of a full rootstock, and they’re also a fool-proof method of preparation for a single section of renkon from the supermarket. Plus, you’ve got lots of serving options!
Note: This recipe calls for okara (おから, also called unohana [うの花]), which is a by-product strained out during the production of soy milk and some tofu. Panko or other bread crumbs could also be substituted, but I found the okara version to have a more pleasant, lighter texture. Plus, okara is dirt cheap, full of protien, and is gluten free. You can find it in the tofu-product section of most Japanese grocery stores. After making burgers, if you need a way to use up your remaining okara, try baking okara pumpkin muffins or okara chocolate cake! (I made the muffins myself last night – they were excellent.)
- 350-400 grams renkon, scrubbed or peeled
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons okara
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon kachup (optional)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Toppings [for wafuu/Japanese style] grated daikon radish, shiso leaves, soy sauce, yuzu or other tart citruis [for a renkon cheeseburger] lettuce, broccoli sprouts, tomato, sliced cheese, your favorite bread
- Begin by grating the renkon into a bowl. (This will be most effective on a grater with serrated, not round, holes – if you don’t have one of these, you should be able to pick one up at any home store or 100 yen shop. If picking up new tools isn’t an option, use the small holes on a cheese grater.)
- Using cheesecloth – or your hands – carefully squeeze the excess liquid out of the grated pulp. Some liquid can remain, but it should be dry enough that, when squeezed together, it retains its shape. Discard liquid.
- In a mixing bowl, combine drained renkon, chopped onions, okara, soy sauce, kachup and salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Divide mixture into two parts. Using your hands, form each into a round patty, about 1.5 centimeters thick. (Alternatively, consider forming into balls for use in pasta sauce, or as a bento ingredient.)
- In a heated, oiled frying pan, cook patties over medium-high heat until both sides are thoroughly browned.
For a renkon cheeseburger, serve on bread or a hamburger bun with your favorite burger garnishes (mine was decked with lettuce, broccoli sprouts, cheese, tomato, avocado and mustard).
Alternatively, for a more Japanese flavor, serve your burger on a plate, topped with grated daikon radish and a shiso leaf. This begs for a sauce – you can use ponzu (a combination of citruis juice and soy sauce, avaliable at any grocery store in Japan), or you can make your own. Add 1 tablespoon of yuzu (lemon will work as well) juice to an equal part of soy sauce. For added citruis flavor, add some of the yuzu zest as well. Enjoy your tangy, hearty renkon burger with rice and miso soup.