When I was pregnant with my younger son, I developed a powerful craving for pickled daikon. Something about its pungent flavor - equal parts spicy, sharp, nutty & sweet - proved irresistible to me. And even though my "baby" is now two and a half years old, I'm still going strong with this root vegetable.
If I'm in a rush, I simply grate the daikon, add some rice vinegar, a dash of sugar and a pinch of sea salt and call it a day. But if I have more time, I make the recipe below which takes a little longer and has more complex flavors.
Adding fresh ginger, garlic, chili pepper and a little sesame oil to pungent fresh daikon makes for one hell of a mouthful. I cannot get enough of the stuff although my husband finds it overpowering. That just means more for me!
I've cobbled the recipe below together from the email instructions sent to me by the good folks at Imperial Tea Court in North Berkeley (where I got my first taste of pickled daikon) and from the recipe for Tenzin's quick pickled radish threads in Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford's excellent book, Beyond the Great Wall which is a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth. I love their books - part cookbook, part photo essay, part travelogue - you can really lose yourself in them, but bring some post-its or something to mark all the recipes you'll want to try.
Although I often eat this stuff straight out of the jar, it's probably more civilized to use a little bit in your rice bowl or as an accompaniment to scallion pancakes or baked tofu. Naomi and Jeffrey mention that they like to eat it mounded on salty, buttered toast so that's one more way to try it.
You can store this in the fridge in a jar with tight-fitting lid for several weeks. The flavors will mellow a bit with time.
Makes about 2 cups
* 1 pound daikon radish, peeled and grated
* 1 Tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger root
* 1 small clove of garlic, minced or pressed
* 1 Tbsp kosher salt
* 1 1/2 cups (unseasoned) rice vinegar
* 1/2 tsp ground white pepper or Sichuan peppercorns
* 2 tsps cane sugar
1. Place the daikon and the kosher salt in a colander and mix well with your hands. Let sit in the sink for 10 minutes to draw some of the water out of the radish - this will help it stay crisp. Do not rinse.
2. Place all the ingredients except the daikon in a mason jar, screw the lid on and shake vigorously for 30 seconds or so. Add the grated daikon, cover the jar and shake again. Chill for at least 12 hours before eating to allow the flavors time to develop. Store in the fridge for up to three weeks.
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