Once found only in Asian markets, daikon is now common at farm markets and is most flavorful in the fall and winter.
Daikon–which means “long root” in Japanese–is most commonly eaten raw or stir-fried. It is a staple in nearly all meals in Japan, Korea, and China.
There are several varieties of daikon. The one you are most likely to find at your farm market looks something like an extra-large white carrot. This variety can grow to about a foot (30 cm) in length, is cylindrical to about 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter and tapered at the tip like a carrot. Daikons can weigh from one-half to two pounds.
Other daikon varieties—which are more common in Asian markets—can be shades of rose, purple-black, or greenish in color. These are shorter and more round. One of these called a “red winter radish” is a turnip-looking root that is green with a pink tip, and another called a “green winter radish” looks something like a cucumber.
Daikon is often shredded and served as an accompaniment to Japanese raw fish dishes, such as sashimi. It can be sliced, cubed or julienne and served as a side vegetable and as a garnish. Daikon also can be added to stews, meatballs and meatloaf, and it can be puréed with other vegetables and served as a light soup.
In Korea, daikons are made into pickles or kim chee. Kim chee—which can also be made from cabbage and turnips–is usually spicy-hot and served as a condiment.
Daikons can be harvested as small as 5 inches (12 cm) in length. The smaller the daikon the milder and less peppery it will taste and the less fibrous its texture.
The daikon is a real radish and like the familiar small red globe radish it originated in the eastern Mediterranean more than 4,000 years ago. The daikon migrated to China with traders around 500 B.C.
You will find daikons in the market year-round, but spring daikons will taste more peppery than fall and winter daikons while summer daikons can be pungent.
Daikon is also called longwhite radish, oriental radish, Japanese radish, Chinese radish, and loh baak or lo pak.
Choose. Select daikons that are firm, not wrinkled, and slightly shiny with no spots or bruises. Very large daikons are likely to be fibrous with a spongy texture.
Store. Daikons are not keepers and should be used quickly or they will lose moisture and become flabby and dry out. You can store daikon in perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator; use soon after purchase for up to a week.
Prepare. Scrub and peel daikon before using. Grate, cube or julienne strips. Daikon can be puréed after cooking. Do not overcook daikon as it will lose flavor.
Serve. Daikon can be served raw or cooked. Here are a few suggestions:
- Serve slivered, diced, sliced and added to relishes, salads, or crudités.
- Serve thin sliced with carrots and sesame.
- Grate and serve with raw fish dishes such as sashimi—mix with lemon juice and vinegar.
- Grate and sprinkle with vinaigrette or with vinegar or lemon juice.
- Cook like a turnip and serve.
- Cook briefly with other root vegetables such as potatoes, then purée for light-bodied soup.
- Grate or slice and add to stews and stir-fries.
- Cut into large slices or strips and braise with other vegetables to serve a mixed vegetable dish.
- Sprinkle with salt to reduce the peppery tang.
Flavor partners. Daikon is pairs well with other vegetables, seafood or fish, poultry, pork, lamb, and beef.
Nutrition. Daikon is low in calories 10 per ½ cup and contains a small amount of vitamin C.
The botanical name of the daikon is Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus.