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Daikon: Your New Favorite Radish

Updated on March 30, 2012
Fresh daikon in the produce section
Fresh daikon in the produce section | Source

What Exactly Is Daikon?

The first time I ever heard of daikon was three weeks ago in a Thai street food cooking class. Our teacher, Jam, was a lively and spirited woman from the south of Thailand, and she mentioned it in passing, extolling its sweet and spicy flavor. Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued and I went home to research this mysterious food.

Turns out that daikon, also known as white radish, Japanese radish, or Chinese radish, is a long, milky white, relatively inexpensive radish. The name is taken from two Japanese words: dai (large) and kon (root), and is used often in Chinese, Thai, and Japanese cuisine (it is one of, if not the most popular vegetables in Japan). It can be found at most local farmers markets from late fall through early spring, as well as in Asian markets and most organic or health food stores in the vicinity of the fresh ginger.

The more I read about this mysterious white radish, the more I plowed on to uncover why it is such a staple in many Asian dishes. According to fitsugar.com, the white pigment found in daikon is anthoxanthin, which is an antioxidant that is thought to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It is also known to aid in digestion, which is why daikon it is often served as a side or condiment (remember that the next time you have one too many volcano rolls!). Some health enthusiasts even claim that this magical root aids in weight loss. While that is hard to prove, the root is quite low in calories.

Tired of reading, I took a trip to the grocery to admire daikon up close; the size alone of these radishes is indeed impressive--most are longer than my forearm and they remind me of fat, albino carrots with lush, dark green leaves. I want to buy them, but I have no idea what to do with them. After asking around and reading recipes, I understand that daikon is normally grated and/or pickled and served as a garnish for sushi (how have I missed that?) or noddle soups. However, the vegetable can take on many forms and is just as often eaten raw, stir-fried, grilled, baked, or simmered in soups.

What Should You Do With Daikon?

So, what exactly should you do with daikon besides use it as a pillow for your sushi?

Well, you can peel and slice them raw, then serve them with a rich, creamy dip or simply toss them into a salad for an extra kick. Cook them like turnips, boiled or steamed, grate them for stir fry’s or pickle them for condiments. Oh, and don't disard those precious greens-- sauté the leaves, which have a ton of vitamin C, calcium, iron and beta carotene.

And then, of course, who could forget soup? Personally, I have never been a huge fan of soup, but little by little as I become more adventurous in my eating, the more tolerant I try to be...especially if the soup is loaded with hearty ingredients and imaginative seasonings. I was lucky enough to snag a great recipe from my Thai cooking class instructor and restaurant owner, Jam: daikon soup with pork and green onions. This soup, paired with a fresh and envigorating Thai green papaya salad makes for a perfect meal.



Cubed daikon
Cubed daikon | Source

Ingredients: Daikon Soup with Pork (Or Tofu!) and Green Onions

***Because I am not a lover of pork, I would use tofu, and many other root vegetables can be added to the soup...don't limit yourself only to daikon!

• 1 large daikon (or two small ones), peeled and cubed

• 1 pinch of salt

• 6 ounces of minced pork

• 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce

• 1 teaspoon of palm or white sugar

• 4-5 cups of stock

• 2 additional tablespoons of light soy sauce

• 1/2 teaspoon of freshly-ground pepper

• 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro

• 1/2 cup of chopped green onions

Pork/Tofu Seasoning:

• 2 cilantro stems, minced (use the part of the stem closest to the root)

• 2 pinches of salt

• 3 garlic cloves, minced

• 10 peppercorns

Directions:

1. Mix the seasoning with the tofu, add palm sugar and 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce.

2. Bring stock to a boil, add pork and break up the pieces with a ladle or a large spoon.

3. Add cubed daikon, 2 more tablespoons of light soy sauce and pinch of salt.

4. Let simmer until daikon is cooked, about 20 minutes. Add more stock if needed.

5. Check seasoning and add more soy sauce to taste.

6. Remove from heat and garnish with spring onions, cilantro and freshly-ground pepper.

Yummy daikon soup
Yummy daikon soup | Source

More Tasty Daikon Ideas:

If you want to make chips or use daikon for your next stir fry, you’re in luck—the process is quick and painless. All you need to do is peel the daikon with a peeler (what you would use on a carrot, for example) then cut the radish crossways for thin, crunchy chips. By dipping the chips in ice-cold water, they will curl and crisp even more. Use sour cream, yogurt or even hummus for a perfect marriage of sweet, salty and slightly bitter. For stir fry’s, cut the daikon into thin julienne strips (like matchsticks) for added nutriention and as an alternative to your usual veggie offerings.

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    • profile image

      Rachel 5 years ago

      :-) interesting! Now I know they are not albino carrots. Thanks for teaching us about daikon!

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 5 years ago

      It's really amazing! Just an hour back I spotted this "new arrival" in the veggie section at the supermarket. It was tagged "Chinese radish!"

      I was wondering what on earth it was, and when I got back home and logged in to HP, I spotted this article!

      Thanks indeed!

    • rjsadowski profile image

      rjsadowski 5 years ago

      Informative hub. The Chinese sometimes refer to it as a giant white turnip and in Hong Kong they sell street food which are fritters made from daikon radish and sweet potatoes.

    • profile image

      jenubouka 5 years ago

      I love using daikon in slaw and in ahi tuna poke. There is this cool gadget for the kitchen that curls roots. It is a Japanese thing you can find in specialty stores really cool and makes eating raw daikon, beets, carrots fun as well as dress up a salad.

      Your recipe for the soup is awesome, I have never tried to "cook the daikon" can't wait to try it!

      Awesome.

    • MerCyn60 profile image

      MerCyn60 5 years ago from New Jersey shore

      We started getting daikon with our CSA (Community supported agriculture) weekly vegetable delivery last year. I was unfamiliar with the vegetable before that. Always looking for new and interesting recipes. Thanks!

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Rachel-it's easy to get intimidated by an albino carrot! Thanks for reading and hope you take on some daikon!

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Quicksand- wow, what a coincidence! I think that's a sign that you have to try cooking with daikon! So glad to have helped!

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Quicksand- wow, what a coincidence! I think that's a sign that you have to try cooking with daikon! So glad to have helped!

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Rjsadowski- daikon and sweet potato fritters??? You had me at street food and that is a great idea! Thanks so much for the input!

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Jenubouka- do you know this gadget's name??? Please let me know the verdict when you try your own cooked daikon! I hope you enjoy it and thank for the kind words and great comments!

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Mercyn60-great timing! I had a csa last year but never got daikon...enjoy those fresh radishes and thanks for reading! Let me know if you try the soup!

    • profile image

      Mamita 5 years ago

      The soup sounds really good,do you think chicken would work in it? Do you find daikon in places like whole foods? I've never noticed it....will check out my green market this weekend! Good article......you 'vie got me branching out!

    • profile image

      JJ 5 years ago

      How is the daikon  used as a garnish for sushi? I have never noticed it before... Very interesting article  

    • profile image

      jenubouka 5 years ago

      Manual vegetable curler. It is soooo cool. I will let you know how it turns out, thinking of trying this weekend.

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Jenubouka- I'm going to have to get that, along with a papaya peeler! Happy daikon eating, enjoy your weekend!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      Very interesting - I love learning about new veggies. Just from looking at the first picture, they look a lot like heirloom carrots. I guess given that carrots and radishes are closely related, I can see now how it might look like a carrot.

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Kris-yes and they are quite delish! Thanks for reading and glad to provide you with some new info!

    • profile image

      tia 5 years ago

      I've always wondered what to do with them too...you've piqued my culinary curiosity, believe there's a soup or stir fry in my future. Just came back from an Asian noodles cooking class & i think we could slip some daikon into a couple of the recipes we made. Post-experiment reviews to follow!

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Tia-you can def slip daikon in with your noodles, or make some crunchy healthy fries as a side! Thanks for reading and keep commenting and experimenting!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Lots of tasty ideas and good recipes. I have bought these radishes before but just ate them raw. I like your ideas.

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