Root vegetables like daikon are especially delicious in winter months, so let’s grab daikon at a Japanese/Asian grocery store and make some simple Pickled Daikon!
In Japan, pickles, or we call it Tsukemono (漬物), are a staple for Japanese meal. They are usually served with rice and considered as a necessary accompaniment to Japanese meals. There are a wide variety of Tsukemono, from simple Pickled Cucumbers preserved in salt to delicate vegetables preserved in rice bran. There is even a Tsukemono (called Fukujinzuke 福神漬) that goes with Japanese Curry!
Daikon (大根) are large white radishes used in Asian cooking. They taste like radishes but milder. The thickest green part of the root closest to the top is the sweetest whereas the narrow bottom area of the root is peppery and pungent. The texture varies depends on how you cook it – crisp when raw and tender when cooked.
Although they are often sold without their tops at Asian market, the entire plant is edible. Usually Japanese stores sell whole daikon including leaves, and I like to chop the leaves into small pieces and add in Miso Soup (so good!). Daikon tastes the best when it’s juicy. To select good daikon, the skin should be smooth and it should feel heavy. The dried daikon might taste peppery, so be careful when you select daikon at a store.
Daikon are available in all year around but they are extra juicy and have a milder taste during the cold winter months. You can cut off whatever amount you need for your cooking, and place the remaining in a plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks. Daikon is a versatile and convenient root vegetable; I use it in soup, nabe, garnish, and Oden to name a few dishes.
When you pickle daikon, it will turn into an amazing side dish. All you need is the right amount of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt (sake and red chili pepper are optional). Even the peppery daikon you might have unfortunately ended up with sometimes will mellow out nicely with this sweet and salty flavor.
The amount of sugar or salt might look too much for your standard pickle dish. However, during pickling process daikon releases lots of water and dilutes the condiments. Also, the Japanese always eat pickle dishes with rice. These salty sweet pickles and plain rice complement each other very well. Therefore, these pickles are not meant to eat alone like a salad. We consider pickles as a palate cleanser between dishes and we call this kind of dish “Hashi Yasume” (literally, chopstick rest 箸休め).
Oh by the way, if pickles are not your thing or you prefer to eat daikon raw, then try my Daikon Salad. Crunchy texture is fun and addicting to eat and so refreshing! Remember to soak in cold water especially if your daikon tastes more peppery than your preference. Hope you enjoy cooking with daikon!
- 1 lb. daikon (Japanese white radish)
- 1 red chili pepper
- 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 tsp. sake (optional)
- 1 tsp. salt
- ⅓ cup (Approx 5 Tbsp.) sugar
- 1 Ziploc bag
- Peel daikon and cut into ¼ inch slices.
- Cut the chili peppers into small pieces and discard the seeds if you prefer less spicy.
- Put all the ingredients in a Ziploc bag and rub well.
- Remove the air from the bag and close it. Keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. We like to pickle daikon for 2 days. Enjoy!