Its name means “cabbage turnip” in German, and that’s what kohlrabi — more cabbage than turnip, in botanical terms — kind of looks like. This curious cool-weather vegetable, with its dense bulb and spiky leaves, remains a mystery to many Chicagoans. But that likely won’t be the case for long, given how frequently kohlrabi is popping up on menus around town. “It has a delicious flavor and texture, like a cross between a turnip, an apple, a parsnip, and a potato,” says Kevin McMullen, executive chef at cider pub the Northman. Below you’ll find his take on the versatile vegetable, along with four other tasty dishes from local spots.
Thin ribbons of fresh kohlrabi, tossed with salt and olive oil, lend a pleasing bite to an elegant entrée of firm monkfish and barley in a bonito broth. $24. 3157 N. Southport Ave., Lake View
At this cured-fish mecca, raw kohlrabi — shaved, then bathed in ice water to crisp it up — garnishes beet-cured gravlax, adding a delicate crunch to the silky salmon slices. $10 to $20. 2700 W. Chicago Ave., Humboldt Park
Edward Kim juliennes kohlrabi for a refreshing spin on som tum (Thai green papaya salad), which he dresses with candied shrimp and a spicy fish sauce. $12. 1401 N. Ashland Ave., Wicker Park
McMullen updates the pasty, a British pub classic, by stuffing it with blanched kohlrabi, along with other vegetables, and goat meat braised in tart cider. $12. 4337 N. Lincoln Ave., North Center
Lee Wolen imparts a tangy accent to his tartare of dry-aged beef with kohlrabi prepared three ways: pickled, shaved raw, and fermented in a kraut. $18. 1729 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park