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Daikon radish is a mainstay of traditional Japanese cuisine

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

During the last month, my wife and I have made our weekly jaunt to the local farm market for lettuce and tomatoes. Every time we went, I’ve noticed some really large, overgrown white radishes, called Daikon radishes.

These radishes were at least 12-14 inches long and from 2-4 inches in diameter! A bunch of three was less than $1.50, so it seemed like a great deal, but what would I do with them?

This strange veggie isn’t much of a stranger at all. In fact, it’s a mainstay of traditional Japanese cuisine. But for many of us, daikon probably sounds more like the name of a superhero than something you eat. So what is this root vegetable, really?

According to Wikipedia, daikon can be prepared and eaten in many ways; shredded, grated, dried and with sushi. It’s also believed Buddhist monks once pickled daikon to help preserve it through the winter. Daikon radish is served with almost every meal at any Japanese restaurant. It’s prepared anyway you like, including raw, fried, grilled, boiled or even in soup.

Eaten raw, daikon is a little bit spicy, but when cooked, it becomes milder in flavor, and even has the ability to bring out other flavors in the dish.

Daikon radish is also known as Oriental radish, icicle radish and Chinese radish. Be sure to choose radishes that are pure white, firm and heavy, and are free of sprouts, cracks or bruises. Discard the green tops unless they are crisp, green and fresh. If the leaves are good, they can be eaten as well. 

Carrot and Daikon       Radish Salad

Thin shreds of daikon radish and carrots are blended with rice vinegar and apple juice to create a fresh tasting salad.

1-1/2 pounds daikon radish (about 12-14 inches long), peeled

1 large carrot, peeled

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup apple juice

1/4 cup rice vinegar

Light soy sauce, to taste (optional)

Cut daikon radish and carrot into thin shreds, or grate in a food processor. Combine vegetables in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, and toss well; set aside for 15 minutes. Drain off liquid in bottom of the bowl. Rinse and firmly squeeze out any excess liquid. Return rinsed veggies to the bowl and pour vinegar and apple juice over them and toss well. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Just before serving, taste and add soy sauce, if desired, and toss. Makes 4 servings.

Daikon and               Cucumber Salad

Shredded daikon and sliced cucumbers are mixed with scallions, mayonnaise and fresh dill for an enticing blend of flavors.

1 daikon radish, shredded

1 cucumber, sliced

3 scallions, sliced

4-5 sprigs of fresh dill (or 2 tsps. dried dill)

Mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, add the shredded daikon, sliced cucumber, sliced scallions and dill; toss until blended. Season with salt, pepper and mayonnaise, to taste. Makes 4-6 servings.

Daikon Radish Pickles

You can make this dish, refrigerate overnight, and the next day you can eat the pickles.

1-1/2 cups chopped daikon

3/4 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. sesame oil

In a medium mixing bowl, add daikon and sprinkle with salt. Cover and refrigerate about 30 minutes. Drain water from bowl and rinse daikon, removing as much salt as possible. Pat dry with a paper towel, and then return to bowl. Stir in rice vinegar, black pepper and sesame oil. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. 

Daikon Pork Stew with Oysters and Shitake Mushrooms

This is a simple overnight crockpot stew that can easily be made on the stovetop. Serve this hearty stew with rice or noodles.

3 Tbsps. cornstarch

3 Tbsps. oyster sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 rack pork spare ribs, trimmed and sliced by the bone

6 cloves garlic, smashed and skinned (not minced)

5 whole dried oysters (washed and soaked in water for 30 minutes)

6 whole Shitake mushrooms (fresh or rehydrated)

1 whole white daikon radish, skinned (cut into 1-inch pieces)

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a bowl, mix together the corn flour, oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar and marinate the meat about 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.

Heat a wok or Dutch oven until almost smoking. Add the vegetable oil and brown all the meat quickly. Add the garlic, oysters, mushrooms and daikon. Stir fry over high heat until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.

Pour mixture into a crockpot and add enough water to almost cover the meat. Cook on LOW for about 8 hours. For a thicker sauce, pour stew into heated wok or Dutch oven and stir in a mixture of 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water. Allow to bubble and reduce. Just before serving, add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Korean Kimchi (Kimchee)

A traditional fermented Korean dish made of vegetables with varied seasonings, many advise to eat the kimchi within 3 weeks. After that, it can get too fermented. This basic recipe makes about 2 quarts.

1 large Chinese or Napa cabbage

4 quarts water

1/2 cup coarse salt

1 small head of garlic, peeled and finely minced

Fresh ginger (about a 2-inch piece), peeled and minced

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/3 cup chili paste (or 1/2 cup Korean chili powder)

1 bunch green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths (use green and white parts)

1 daikon radish (12-14 inches), peeled and grated

1 tsp. honey

Slice the cabbage lengthwise in half, and then slice each half lengthwise into three sections (cut away any tough stem chunks). Add the water to a large pot. Dissolve the salt in the water, and then submerge the cabbage under the water. Put a plate on top to make sure it stays under water. Let stand for 2 hours.

In a large glass bowl, mix all the other ingredients. Drain the cabbage, rinse and squeeze it dry. Add cabbage and mix it all up. Pack the kimchi in a clean glass jar (or jars) and cover tightly. Let stand for 1-2 days in a cool place (room temperature is OK). If it’s bubbling a bit, then it’s ready and should be refrigerated. If not, let it stand another day, then check again.

 Once it’s fermenting, it can be served or stored in the refrigerator up to 3 weeks. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds over the kimchi when serving. Makes about 2 quarts.