[ Beneath the Waves ]

Health Burdock Gean

Ben Lincoln


Back in 2012 I was at Uwajimaya and poked through their freezer looking for vegetarian meat-substitutes that were also gluten-free[1]. One of the few that I found was labeled "Health Burdock Gean", and I actually let it sit in my freezer for months because I was concerned it would be inedible like so many other gluten-free foods.

Health Burdock Gean
[ In freezer package ]
In freezer package

This is how you'll find it in the freezer at Uwajimaya


My curiousity was piqued when I remembered to look up what "burdock" commonly means in American English (it's thistle, and the food is made from the roots). "Health Burdock Gean" does contain burdock, but it also has plenty of soy protein - it's not plain burdock.

Despite being incredibly obscure, it is easily the best vegetarian mock meat I've ever had. It has such a convincing chicken taste and texture that I thought at first that I'd bought a mislabeled package of real meat.

The only downside is that it's only vegetarian, not vegan - it contains sodium caseinate, which is a milk protein.

Its importer (Big Vegetarian Supply) has a website, but you won't get much out of it unless you read Chinese. Their current list of products (as of May 2013) doesn't list "Health Burdock Gean", but I'm pretty sure it's item 165BIG ("Veggie Chicken Gean"), or at least I sure hope so, because I would hate to see this stuff disappear. When I went back to buy the supplies for this article, I bought something like 12 packages just to make sure I'd have enough to last for awhile.

One of the many great things about it is that you can cook it just about any way that you'd cook actual meat, and simple recipes will taste excellent without a lot of fussing around. For example:

Barbecued Health Burdock Gean Skewers

Barbecued Skewers
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Made using the recipe below


I recommend marinating the Health Burdock Gean overnight. When I made the batch photographed above, I used an off-the-shelf "Baja lime" marinade, and two DIY marinades:

Kentucky-Fried Health Burdock Gean

This will give you a savoury taste that should remind you even more of chicken than unaltered Health Burdock Gean. If you don't have access to a barbecue, cooking Health Burdock Gean in the oven in a pan of this marinade is also pretty good.


A sweeter, tangy taste. I got the idea for this from the instructions that come with Tofurkeys.

One the Health Burdock Gean has been marinated, cut each piece into two smaller pieces, skewer along with vegetables (I used bell peppers, onions, and grape tomatoes), and barbecue until it looks tasty.

Mock Chicken Soup With Rice

This is another quick recipe that is very tasty thanks to the magic of Health Burdock Gean.



  1. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.
  2. Add all of the ingredients.
  3. Continue cooking until the rice is done - by then, everything else will be too.
  4. Season to taste (I used Sri Racha).

But What Does It MEAN?

Beats me. Supposedly "Gean" is another word for "wild cherry". When I run the Chinese characters above "Heath Burdock Gean" on the packaging through Google Translate, I get "Cow/Ox/Bull/Neat/Bossy" (牛), "Burdock" (蒡), and "Healthy" (健 - I think? I don't actually know Chinese...). So we've got "healthy" and "burdock" pretty much for sure. I am guessing that "gean" is a mistranslation of something that should be closer to "nuggets" or "bites"?

1. In my early 30s, I noticed that every time I ate wheat or wheat-based products, I would quickly fall into an uncomfortably deep sleep.
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