Pictured above is renkon (lotus root)* kinpira. Usually this dish is made with gobo, burdock root. The crispiness of gobo makes this a wonderfully crunchy simmered dish to round out a Japanese meal (something grilled, something simmered, soup, pickles and steamed rice.) If you can't find gobo, try lotus root, carrot, udo (butterbur in English, I think) or celery. Gobo and carrot together are a popular version of kinpira.
Kinpira will last several days in the refrigerator, and is great for including in bentos. Skip the pepper if serving to small children. Also, using prepared gobo (or renkon) will make a softer kinpira, good for those who have difficulty with crisp foods (adding a bit of water and simmering for a longer time can also soften this dish.)
I have a few different versions of this dish, so I am going to combine them a bit. Instead of a 1:1:1 ratio of sake, sugar and soy sauce, more sake is used to make it a little bit bland. With renkon you can probably get away with 1:1:1, but with gobo (because it has a fairly strong flavor), you may want to use more sake.
1 gobo (burdock root)
1/3 carrot (optional)
1 aka togarashi ((dried)red chili pepper)**
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
3 Tbsp. sake
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. mirin
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1-2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
Prepare gobo by scrubbing off dirt (don't peel!). If using pre-washed gobo, just rinse. Cut gobo into three inch pieces, then soak in a bowl of water with about a teaspoon of vinegar. When the water turns brown, rinse and drain, then cut into match sticks. Soak again in water and vinegar until it turns brown. Rinse and drain again. Cut carrot (if using) into match sticks (same size as gobo). Soak chili pepper in warm water until soft. Cut off the top, then scoop out the seeds with a toothpick. Slice into rounds.
Heat sesame oil in a frying pan over high heat. Stir fry gobo (and carrot, if using) until it starts to soften. Add sake, sugar, mirin and soy sauce and reduce heat to medium and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and spread in a dish to cool. Top with roasted sesame seeds.
* I used packaged renkon, which may have already been cooked. It's not as crisp as fresh renkon probably would be, but I probably couldn't manage cutting it that thin, and prepared renkon (or gobo) saves a little time on this dish. If using fresh renkon, I recommend soaking it in water and vinegar before frying.
** Instead of togarashi, which can be very spicy, try shichimi togarashi (seven pepper spice) instead.