If you've ever ordered a sushi roll and saw an orange vegetable inside, you'd be right to think it was a carrot. However, there's a good chance it may actually be yamagobo...but what exactly is that? Yamagobo is a Japanese term for burdock root (gobo) pickled in an acidic and sweet brine that pairs well with carrots, pork, and sushi. During the pickling process, the burdock root is colored with orange food dye which make it look a lot like shredded carrots. Yamagobo can found in many Japanese dishes, however, it is most commonly found as a filler in many sushi rolls.
Burdock is a plant native to Eurasia that is related to both artichokes and sunflowers. The plant itself looks like a weed and isn't very pretty. The burdock plant also isn't safe to eat because of its prickly fruit. However, the burdock root, which is called gobo in Japan, is edible and enjoyed all over the world.
Though yamagobo is commonly used to add a little crunch to sushi rolls, it can also be used in a wide variety of foods like sandwiches and salads or be eaten on its own as a side dish.
If you're having trouble finding yamagobo at your local grocery store, these three options are great substitutes.
Due to their similar appearance, pickled carrots are an obvious choice for a yamagobo substitute. Pickled carrots are often paired with pickled burdock to make a dish called kinpira gobo. Though carrots and yamagobo do differ in taste, they are quite complimentary so pickled carrots can easily get the job done if that's all you have around.
Like carrots, turnips are also complimentary to gobo. Though they don't have the orange hue, pickled turnips taste pretty similar to yamagobo.
Burdock root is also fairly similar to radish, so pickled radishes are also a possible option for when yamagobo is nowhere to be found.
Burdock Root is usually available at national chain stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Yamagobo is a little harder to find, but checking with your local Asian foods market is a safe bet. If all else fails, you can always order Yamagobo online. Since it's pickled, you don't have to worry about the yamagobo going bad if you opt to have it delivered.