photo by: Joi
This is known as giant butterbur or what the Japanese call fuki 菜蕗. According to Dave’s Garden, an informational garden website, this is a perenial that requires moist soil, that’s why it grows so well here in the Pacific Northwest. Apparently, it’s fairly easy to grow so many of the local Japanese have this in their garden. This time of year, they’re all most generous, and often share their crop with the community. In Japan, the leaf isn’t consumed, just the stalk. I’d like to describe it as a vegetable that’s similar to a cross between celery and rhubarb. It has that stringy exterior that must be peeled and a strong bitterness, that some say can be toxic. There are various ways of removing the bitterness, so I was planning to ask the advice of a Japanese friend, Mrs. Kawahara, who is a wonderful traditional Japanese cook, as she often shares her cooked fuki.
In the photo, I placed a coffee spoon next to the fresh fuki for scale. As you can see they are about 3 to 4 times as long as celery. Concerned that they needed to be cooked quickly, and before waiting for proper instructions, I went ahead and washed, peeled, and sliced the fuki. Then soaked it in water. Oops. Wrong procedure. I later found out that you’re supposed to wash, salt, boil then peel and soak. What happened my fuki? Instead of remaining straight, they curled.
When I finally got hold of my friend, I told her about my disaster. She was so sweet and said not to worry, because although it didn’t look great, it was still edible. Well, I hate to waste anything, so I followed her advice and boiled them for a few minutes. She said I could just stir-fry them using the typical Japanese flavorings of sake, soy sauce, and mirin. I ended up adding sesame oil to the hot frying pan, sauteing the fuki and taking her advice on the seasoning. For a little bit of bite, I added two dried red chilies. All in all, the final version was good, but not as good as Mrs. Kawahara’s. Here’s my odd shaped fuki dish!