Pickled Daikon Radish (Takuan) – What It Is and How to Make It
This popular sushi side dish is super simple to make
Shh. Don't tell anyone. When a foreign food becomes popular here in the U.S. the price goes up, and daikon radish is not very expensive because it's not very well known. If you haven't had it, it's milder than red radishes, and is great shredded into salads or sliced into stir-fries. But, my favorite way to eat it is as pickles.
Growing up we visited a small Japanese restaurant in Seattle called Tenkatsu about once a month. Our honorary oba-san served us beautiful Japanese home cooking meals -- the type that were kind of hard to find for a while because of the sushi craze. And are probably still kind of hard to find in some corners of the country. Every meal started with miso soup and tiny dishes of takuan, oshitashi (sesame spinach salad) and sunomono (lightly pickled cucumber salad). Every single meal, without fail. Then rice would follow, along with the entrees. As children, my sister and I would invariably order either tempura or beef teriyaki -- the old school kind of teriyaki that's just the meat swimming in a sweet, salty sea of thin teriyaki broth. You can’t really find that any more. Or Tenkatsu. Those were the days... er, sorry, I'm putting the rose colored glasses away now.
Takuan is pickled daikon radish, and the traditional Japanese version not only takes months to prepare, it takes many days of warm sunshine -- not exactly an abundant commodity here in Seattle. Luckily, there’s a quick and easy way to make them as refrigerator pickles. No water bath or pressure canning involved and the ingredients are common. Well, daikon may or may not be common where you are. You can find it in most major metropolitan areas and/or areas with Asian communities or grocery stores. It’s in all of our major grocery stores here in Seattle.
Ingredients (halve, double or triple depending on how much daikon you have)
1 large, long daikon radish (about 1/2 pound)
1 tbsp salt + 1 tsp salt
½ cup rice vinegar (not sushi vinegar)
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
½ tsp ground turmeric
Peel the daikon and trim the ends. Cut into thin rounds between 1/8 inch and ¼ inch. If your daikon is really big around, cut the daikon lengthwise and cut into half circles.
Put the daikon in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the salt. Mix well and let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse the salt off and let drain in a colander.
In a small saucepan combine the rest of the ingredients. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar, turmeric and salt have dissolved (the turmeric may not fully dissolve and that’s okay). Take off heat and let cool to room temperature.
Stuff the daikon slices into a jar that will fit them. Any jar will do, but be sure to sterilize it first. Pour the liquid into the jar over the daikon. Leave 1 inch of room at the top because the radishes will release some liquid as they pickle. Don’t worry if there’s not enough liquid to cover the daikon at first. Shake the jar each day to distribute everything.
Put a lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 days before eating. 5 is better. The pickles will last about a month if you can keep your hands out of the jar. I can’t.
Note: After purchasing the daikon, let it sit in your vegetable crisper for a few weeks. It makes better pickles when it’s aged and starting to get limp.
What to Eat Daikon With
Serve them in little dishes with other little appetizers. Eat them with rice. Order sushi takeout and eat them on the side. Slice them and add to salads. They’re great on tuna fish sandwiches and tacos. No, really, I’m serious. Think about anywhere you’d use pickled onions or peppers and use these there. They’re also really good in stir fry dishes.
The Cost of Daikon
The two radishes in the picture weighed one pound in total at a cost of $1.59 per pound. The price varies a lot depending on the season and where you’re located, but generally it’s always going to be less than $3 per pound. Buying a small tray of prepared takuan at Asian specialty stores is much more expensive. Since you also want the radish to be a little limp and not perfectly fresh and crisp, you might wait until it's on sale when stores are trying to clear out stock.
The Nutrition of Daikon
Daikon is extremely low in calories at about 15 per ounce. That ounce contains 1 gram of fat, no cholesterol, no sodium, 1 gram of carbohydrates and 1 gram of protein. It's also a good source of vitamin C and contains small amounts of vitamin A, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium and other minerals.
These pickles can also help with digestion, especially if you eat a fatty meal, like fried chicken.