Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Friday Food 169 – Burdock

Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time, we are going underground. Roots, mon.

When I was a kid, aeons ago, we used to drink dandelion and burdock. This was traditionally a slightly alcoholic beverage, but the soft drink companies sold a non-alcoholic version. It went out of fashion, but I’m told sales have increased recently.


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I knew what dandelions were. A ubiquitous weed, only useful for blowing off the white seeds and chanting “She love me; she loves me not” until they were all gone, thereby announcing your likelihood of consummation with the object of your desires. It is also a well-known diuretic to the point that the French for dandelion is “pissenlit” which literally means “piss in bed”.

But I had no real idea what burdock might be. Not that I particularly cared. Turns out it is the root of another, botanically related, weed, and in addition to its appearance in my childhood brews, is used in a number of other ways. It is NOT recommended that you go dig it up yourself. The roots are very similar to other roots which can be fatally poisonous.

It is used as a popular vegetable in Japan (ゴボウ; gobō) where it is often added to stews and soups, or served in salads. According to Wikipedia, “The root is very crisp and has a sweet, mild, and pungent flavor“. Mild and pungent? Contradiction, surely.

In China, burdock (Arctium lappa) is known as 牛蒡 is less often used as a food but is mainly used in herbal teas and traditional medicines. It is most commonly sold dried and pre-sliced.

Burdock - 牛蒡

Burdock – 牛蒡

It is also a diuretic and is noted for helping shift “gas and other blockages”.

It costs around ¥36/kg. The amount in the picture above is about one-third of a bunch I bought for ¥5.70. Available from any traditional medicine store.

There is more information and a recipe for the fermented dandelion and burdock drink here. Dandelion in Chinese is 蒲公英. Have fun, but don’t stray too far from the nearest 厕所.

. This entry was posted on Friday, August 5th, 2016 at 7:00 am and is filed under Food and Drink, Friday Food. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

3 Responses to “Friday Food 169 – Burdock”

  1. David Says:

    Mild flavour and pungent smell is clear enough , but try as I might I can’t think of plants or foods that fit that particular description.

  2. Liuzhou Laowai Says:

    I can think of many!

    Some of those notorious malodorous cheeses have mild flavours, for example.

    臭豆腐 chòu dòu fǔ

    Some spices.


    I could go on.

    I’d go on, but I’d bore you.

  3. David Says:

    Yes yes your right (occasionally) of course – but bore me , never , you old rocker ! Aaahh the cheeses the cheeses . But that tofu only counts as odour or is it ordure ….

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