Jan 17, 2014


Most of us are familiar with the small, round red radishes found in grocery stores here in Hawaii, and on the Mainland. There is another radish however that is a staple in Asian cuisine, the daikon radish, or white radish. The big difference between red radishes and the daikon radish is the size. The daikon radish is huge, kind of like a white carrot on steroids. It has a light crunchy texture, and sharp bite that compliments rich Asian dishes and adds flavor to relishes and salads. In China, daikon (lo bak) is used more in cooking soups, stir-fries and "red-cooked dishes", where the food is slowly simmered in a soy sauce based sauce, like the braised chicken recipe below. Pickled daikon (Takuwan) is very popular in Japan, and in Hawaii, and can be found in most sushi bars and grocery stores here.

If you're like me, you wonder what people do with foods that they are not familiar with. I have found that the daikon radish is a very versatile, and healthy vegetable, and something worth considering when you're looking for something different to have for dinner. 

Here are a few simple recipes for you to try:

Hawaiian Sweet & Spicy Pickled Daikon
Hawaiian Sweet & Spicy Pickled Daikon
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Fresh daikon is readily available in markets here in Hawaii. You see it used shredded as a garnish for sushi, but my favorite way to serve it is pickled in a sweet & spicy brine (much better than commercial brands). They are served with rice and grilled fish or chicken, or just eat them as a snack. They are some of the best pickles you can imagine.

2 pounds Chinese white radish no larger than 2 inches in diameter, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
2 tablespoons Hawaiian sea salt, or kosher salt
4 teaspoons plus 1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons powdered turmeric
2 1-inch slices peeled ginger, cut into strips
2 Hawaiian chili pepper, seeded and chopped

Place daikon slices in a colander, sprinkle with salt and 4 teaspoons of brown sugar, mix well. Place the colander over a bowl and let drain for about 1 hour, or until the radish slices are bendable. Rinse the salt off a couple of times under cold running water and dry the slices well. Put the slices into two sterilized quart glass jars.

In a small saucepan over medium heat add the vinegar, water, 1 cup brown sugar, turmeric, ginger, and chopped Hawaiian chili pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat.

Pour the hot turmeric brine into a strainer over the jars to cover the radish slices with the brine. You want to do this while your brine is still relatively hot, as this improves the final crunch factor of you radish slices. If you wait until your brine has cooled down to add it to your radish slices, you'll end up with relatively soft radishes with little crunch. Screw the lid on tightly before the jar cools, then refrigerate for two days as it ferments. At this point they are ready to eat. Pickled daikon will last for months stored in the refrigerator.

Makes 2 quarts.

Pickled Beet Root with Daikon Radish
Pickled Beet Root with Daikon Radish
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This is another version of the sweet Japanese pickled daikon called "Takuwan" which uses turmeric to make the white radishes turn yellow. I use beets, which color the daikon a beautiful vibrant red. You want to use equal amounts of cooked beets and raw daikon radish for this recipe. This condiment pairs well with pork, chicken or fish.

5 medium sized beets, peeled and cooked in salted water, about 1 teaspoon of salt
4 cups daikon radish, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 medium onion, sliced
8 whole cloves
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups beet juice
1/2 cup sugar

Cook peeled beets, cover in salted water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the beets to a cutting board to cool, save the beet juice in the pot. Take out two quart jars that have been boiled with the lids for 20 minutes. Divide the onions, uncooked daikon pieces, and whole cloves into the two jars. Put the vinegar, 2 cups of beet juice, and 1/2 cup of sugar in a pot and bring to a simmer long enough to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile cut the cooled cooked beets into the same size that you cut the daikon. Put the cut beets into the jars, and fill each jar with the hot vinegar solution. Fill the jars to 1/4 inch from the top of each jar. Tightly seal the jars with the clean lids and leave out on the counter to cool. When cool, refrigerate. They are ready to eat in about 24 hours. Makes 2 quarts.

Braised Chicken with Daikon and Egg
Braised Chicken with Daikon and Egg
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3 boiled eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil for frying
1 pound daikon (radish), peeled cut into bite size pieces
3 tablespoons minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 star anise
2 inch cinnamon stick
4 large chicken thighs
1/3 cup Tamari sauce or dark soy sauce
1/3 cup sake
3 tablespoons mirin
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons sugar
dash of pepper
2 stalks spring onion, thinly sliced on an angle, for garnish

Put eggs in a small pot and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let sit for 10 minutes, then drain the water and run cold water over the top to cool the eggs. Set the eggs aside to cool, then peel.

Heat up 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a wok or large skillet and fry ginger, garlic, star anise and cinnamon stick until fragrant. Add chicken and brown on all sides, about 20 minutes on medium high heat.

In a small bowl, mix Tamari sauce, sake, mirin, water and sugar. Add the sauce to the chicken and daikon, lower heat and gently simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the star anis and cinnamon stick and discard. Season the chicken and daikon with pepper. Slice each egg in half. Dish out chicken and daikon into bowls. Add 3 egg halves on top of chicken and daikon. Spoon sauce over everything and garnished with sliced spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve with steamed rice. Makes 2 servings.

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