Daikon, also known as white radish, Japanese radish, Chinese radish, winter radish, and luobo, is popular in Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian cuisines. The vegetable resembles a large white plump carrot and is commonly eaten raw, cooked, or pickled.
- Origin: Southeast or East Asia
- Translation: "big root" in Japanese
- Also known as: white radish, Japanese radish, Chinese radish
- Root and leaves: edible
Along with the common white daikon radish, there are several other varieties found in Asia. The Cantonese lobak or lo pak has a light green color around the top of the root near the leaves. One Korean variety called mu has a similar green and white coloration but is rounder and shorter. Lobak and mu are both spicier with a more peppery bite than daikon radish.
For a more colorful option, seek out a watermelon radish. This Chinese daikon is round or oval in shape and has dull, light green flesh and a bright pink interior, similar to a watermelon. It's typically served sliced thin and raw to preserve the color.
How to Cook With Daikon Radish
Daikon can be served raw or cooked. It is often peeled before use, but the skin is edible and peeling is optional. Daikon can be thinly sliced for a garnish or pickling, diced for cooking, or grated for pickling or used in baked goods and savory dishes. The greens can also be eaten raw in salads or added to soups and other hot dishes, and the sprouts, or kaiware, are used raw in dishes like Japanese green salads and vegetable sushi.
What Does It Taste Like?
Raw daikon radish has a sweet and lightly spicy flavor, and it tends to be milder than a peppery red radish. The level of spice can depend on the variety of white radish, with some having a stronger flavor. The flesh is very crunchy and juicy. Cooked, daikon tastes mellow and sweet and becomes tender, similar to a cooked turnip. The greens are very peppery with a pungent flavor that mellows slightly when cooked.
Daikon Radish Recipes
Raw daikon root, leaves, and sprouts are used in salads and as a garnish. The radish is frequently used to make crisp and lightly spicy pickles, including Japanese takuan and bettarazuke. Grated and pickled with carrot, daikon is a common topping for Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches.
Cooked, daikon radish can be found in a number of soups and stews as well as Chinese turnip cakes, north Indian curries, and nimono, a traditional Japanese style of dish that braises vegetables in a dashi-based broth.
- Braised Daikon Radish (Daikon no Nimono)
- Chinese Daikon, Carrot, and Tomato Beef Stew
- Spicy Japanese Daikon Pickles (Tsukemono)
Where to Buy Daikon Radish
Daikon sometimes pops up in supermarkets, especially fancier grocery stores or markets located in neighborhoods with a large Japanese or Chinese population. If you can't find daikon in your local grocery store, try an Asian market. The radish is in season in the winter and is available at some farmers markets and CSAs. The vegetable is often sold loose by the pound and available year-round in stores.
Depending on the variety, white radishes can range in length from about 6 inches to as long as an arm. Some are rounder than others. Regardless of the variety, look for daikon that is firm with tight skin, heavy for its size, and free of cuts and dark or soft spots.
You can grow daikon radish at home. Plant the seeds in summer or early fall (depending on your growing zone) for a winter harvest, or about two months before the first frost date. The plant is often used in agriculture as tillage since it leaves behind a soil cavity for crops like potatoes and adds nutrients back into the earth.
If your daikon has the leaves still attached, remove them and store separately. The unwashed root will keep for one or two weeks wrapped in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The leaves will keep for up to three days. Cut, raw daikon keeps well but may impart a strong odor that can be absorbed by other ingredients inside your refrigerator. Blanched daikon can be frozen for up to a month, and cooked daikon will keep for a few days in an airtight container. Pickled daikon will keep for three weeks or more.