Perhaps you've spotted it in the produce aisle at your local grocery store or stumbled upon it at Asian food markets. You wonder: what on earth is that vegetable that looks like a giant white carrot? Well, it's daikon radish and has been enjoyed in Asia for centuries – from India and China, to Japan and beyond.
So what exactly is daikon radish? What does it taste like? How should it be prepped? Most importantly, how should it be cooked? Let's find out.
What is daikon radish?
As you may have already guessed by its looks, daikon radish is a root. Its texture is somewhat similar to a carrot but the flavour is perceptibly spicier, like a blend of ginger and red radish.
The nutritional properties of daikon radish
Daikon radish is almost touted as a superfood given its multitude of health benefits. For starters, it is low in calories and has zero fat. This hearty vegetable has the capacity to boost metabolism and combat bloating due to its diuretic properties. The daikon radish is a cruciferous vegetable, putting it in good nutritional company in the same family as broccoli and kale. Like its relatives, it is full of vitamin C, along with many other vitamins, minerals, and powerful plant compounds.
Daikon radish is widely enjoyed in Japan where it is often served raw to accompany fried foods. In this case, it is used as a digestive aid.
To serve raw daikon radish simply slice it in rounds or grate it the same way you would carrots. It's also delicious with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of salt.
If you want to cook daikon radish steaming is one of the best methods to ensure its nutrients are preserved. After it has softened you may add it to salads and toss with a little extra virgin olive oil for flavour. Steamed radish also makes a great side dish for fish.
A soup made from daikon radish? It's possible and totally delicious.
Before making soup you should know that the longer you cook daikon the less pungent it becomes. So it's best to add it to the pot towards the end of the cooking process when all the other vegetables are tender and cook for just a few more minutes. Then it's up to you if you want to enjoy a chunky vegetable soup or a silky puree.
Make a killer batch of scalloped potatoes by adding sliced daikon to the mix. Arrange the vegetables in a casserole, cover with a creamy béchamel sauce and bake as usual.
Daikon radish instead of rice
Some vegans are enjoying a healthier version of rice by grating daikon radish into tiny pearls or pulsing it in a food processor.
Daikon 'rice' is a great base for salads – just toss with your favourite veggies and vinaigrette.
If you are in the mood for homemade kimchi, try adding grated daikon to your recipe instead of cabbage. Or use both to make an awesome kimchi with a twist.
Do you find fried foods irresistible? The daikon radish shouldn't be an exception. It can be fried just like potatoes. Simply decide on the cut and go for it.
More recipes with daikon
For a dish aesthetic enough to be displayed in an art gallery, punctuate the off-white of thinly sliced daikon and the gentle pink of crisp watermelon with flecks of bright paprika and dark green thyme leaves in this daikon summer salad. Or for a bolder meal, top deep-fried tofu with wasabi, daikon, and herbs. In frigid weather, you can use daikon to garnish this miso soup with daikon. Or you can allow chef Daniel Facen to take you on a journey across the North Pacific from daikon’s homeland with his elaborate dish he calls Alaska, starring salmon, sour yoghurt, and daikon.