One Radish, Two Pickles, and a Garnish
The Japanese white radish, Daikon, is used in traditional meals in raw, cooked and pickled forms. Shredded raw daikon is a common garnish and side dish with sashimi — its peppery bite complementing the mild cool flavor of the raw fish. When we had poke for the Superbowl game last Sunday (go there), I shredded a large mound of daikon as garnish for the platter, but that still left us with 3/4 of the root. I will cook with daikon if a particular dish requires it, such as Oden or Okinawan Kombu, but to be honest it's not my favorite cooked vegetable. So instead of cooking with it, I decided to pickle the remaining daikon two ways.
Daikon is a large (1-5 lb) root vegetable that can come in many shapes and varieties. I had only ever seen the long, white variety (seen here) until we came to Hawaii. Since then we've also seen short, thicker, bulbous looking variety labelled in the supermarkets as "Korean radish" and another stocky root tinged dark green at the top that is also labelled as daikon. When choosing one at the market, the radish should feel heavy for its size -- a sign of freshness, since daikon begins drying out and losing its water weight the longer it sits after harvesting. I also look for small roots — one, because larger roots can sometimes be woody and unpalatable; and two, because I don't usually cook a lot of daikon at one time.
To prepare, simply wash well with a vegetable scrubber and clean water, and peel. To shred, you can use the large holes of a regular grater. But I discovered this great tool while I was watching one of the workers at our favorite Thai restaurant make long beautiful strips of perfectly julienned papaya for a green papaya salad. I walked over to ask her if I could take a look at the tool she was using, and she told me I could find it at any Filipino (I did not find any at Pacific Supermarket, or any other Filipino grocery I know) or Thai grocery. After a few weeks search, I did find it at a Thai market in Chinatown (go there). With the same easy motion you use to peel a potato or carrot, you can make long julienne strips from any suitable vegetable: carrots, daikon, potatoes (make shoe-string fries), green papaya, sweet potatoes, etc. It takes up much less storage space than a mandoline, Benriner or other type of box grater, and cleans up faster and easier too. So here we used the julienne-peeler to make a garnish for our poke platter.
With the remaining daikon, the smaller tapered end was also shredded and pickled with carrots, sugar and vinegar in the Vietnamese style. This pickle can accompany most Vietnamese stye meals, like the BBQ pork with rice noodles (go there for recipe). It's also a great sandwich pickle, as in Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches — but even a regular tuna, ham-and-cheese, or deli turkey sandwich will benefit from this vinegary condiment.
Finally, the larger end was thinly sliced and combined with carrots, wakame (wa-KAH-may) seaweed, sugar, salt, rice vinegar, lemon and dashi-no-moto to make a Japanese pickle called Namasu (NAH-mah-s'). Like its Southeast Asian cousin above, namasu is a quick fresh pickle, and can accompany any Japanese rice meal.
1 lb. (450g) daikon, scrubbed, peeled
1 small carrot (100-120g), scrubbed and peeled
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 TBL. dried wakame seaweed, placed in a bowl and covered with 4 cups cool water for 20-30 minutes (not longer)
Slice daikon lengthwise, then into thin half-moon slices. Place in colander and sprinkle with sugar, then mix well and leave 30-40 minutes to drain. Sugar will pull water from the radish and leave it pliable but crunchy. Do not rinse.
Using your peeler, slice thin ribbons of carrot from the root. Cut the ribbons into fourths across their width. Place in colander, sprinkle with salt and leave for 20-40 minutes to drain. Do not rinse.
Place wakame in small bowl and cover with 3 cups cool water for 20-30 minutes. Rinse in 2-3 changes of water. Squeeze dry.
Combine daikon, carrot, and wakame in medium bowl.
1/2 packet dashi-no-moto (dried bonito broth)
1/3 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar (or 1/4 cup white vinegar + 1/2 tsp. sugar)
1 TBL. mirin
1 TBL. fresh lemon juice
Combine dressing ingredients in small bowl in the order listed above. Whisk or stir well to dissolve sugar and dashi-no-moto. Taste and correct seasoning — it should taste lemony and ever-so-slightly sweet.
Pour over vegetables and leave in refrigerator at least 30 minutes. Keeps in refrigerator up to 5 days.