A huge daikon radish arrived in the Ooooby box last week. It was over 1kg, with a crown of beautiful fresh green leaves. I have learned to love daikon, but some people have said to me that they’re not sure what to do with it. So, this is a post about what to do with daikon.
Otherwise known as white radish, Raphanus sativus, daikon is a monster member of the radish family.
A single daikon can be 30cm and over 1.5kg. (I’ve seen smaller versions as well.) Daikon is the Japanese name; it’s called mooli in India. It’s popular in most Asian cuisines.
David from Suncakes Gardens at Hamilton Farmers Market grows and sells beautiful daikons. He told me he’d cook it in a vegetable soup.
Daikons are usually milder and juicier than small red radishes. They have a bit of radish “bite” and pungency, but not too much.
Where to find daikons
Daikons can be found in Asian specialty stores, but I’ve never seen them in mainstream supermarkets. I think this is probably because they’re too big and weird looking. I realised this when I tried to take a nice photo of my daikon. It looked like something Salvador Dali could have dreamed up! I’ve noticed that supermarkets only stock vegetables and fruit that are “pretty” and regular in size and shape, and store well for long periods. This really narrows down the possibilities for flavour and nutrition and seasonal food.
Carrots are much more photogenic than daikon. Photo by Dani Edwards.
When I bring a daikon home, I make sure to use the leaves on the first day. After 24 hours they will be wilted and fit for the compost heap.
The root part of the daikon keeps well in the vegetable drawer of the fridge. I just cut off a chunk as I need to.
Charmaine Solomon, author of the Encyclopedia of Asian Food (1997, Hamlyn Australia), says daikon is cooked in stewed dishes, used as a garnish, and made into relishes and pickles. I think daikon root is at its best when combined with other vegetables rather than presented on its own.
Using the leaves
Charmaine Solomon says daikon leaves are rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C. But more importantly, they are delicious.
In a stir-fry: Slice the leaves into 2cm pieces and stir-fry until wilted with garlic and ginger. You can combine them with other vegetables, with small strips of daikon root, or just cook them on their own. They’re good with a splash of oyster sauce (from Asian supply stores) added at the end.
In salad: Slice the leaves finely (more finely than for stir-frying). I usually combine radish greens with milder leaves, e.g. lettuce or mesclun. Toss with a dressing made from sesame oil, lemon juice, salt and a pinch of sugar. (The proportions will depend on your taste buds.) Sprinkle over some toasted sesame seeds.
Radish in salad
Daikon root is great as the “crunch” factor with other salad ingredients. This is especially useful in the winter when cucumbers are way out of season. Slice it into julienne strips – about 2cm long and about 0.5cm thick.
Here’s a good combination:
2 cups of shredded red cabbage, 1 cup of bitter and/or spicy greens from the garden, eg chicory and land cress, chopped finely, and 1 cup of daikon pieces. Toss with a vinaigrette dressing of your choice.
Grating raw beetroot is messy, but it's worth it - see the following recipe. Photo by Dani Edwards.
Beetroot, carrot and daikon salad
This is delicious and colourful. It’s my adaptation of a Julie LeClerc recipe, which is probably Eastern Mediterranean in origin.
This salad is better if it is made a couple of hours ahead, or even the day before, so the beets and carrots can marinate.
Peel and grate equal quantities of raw beetroot, carrot and daikon. (NB this is messy!)
Toast 2 Tbsp sesame seeds in a cast iron pan and add to the bowl.
Finely chop one spring onion and add this also.
Dressing: 2 tsp sesame oil, 2 Tbsp olive oil, juice of one lemon (or more to taste), ½ tsp sugar, salt and pepper, finely grated zest of ½ a lemon
Add the dressing to the salad and mix well.
Optional: sprinkle over 2 Tbsp chopped parsley or coriander
Daikon and chilli relish
If you like chillies, this goes well with both Japanese and Indian food.
Finely grate a piece of daikon and finely chop one or two fresh chillies. Combine in a bowl with ½ tsp salt and 2 Tbsp cider vinegar or lemon juice.