What Is Daikon?
Daikon is an edible root vegetable belonging to the Brassicaceae family that comes in many shapes and sizes. It's the most popular vegetable in Japan, though it's used in many other cuisines as well. Its versatility makes it an easy vegetable to incorporate into raw or cooked dishes, as you might with carrots or turnips.
Radishes likely originated in the Mediterranean and then landed in Japan during the 3rd or 4th century. Its name translates from the Japanese as "big root." The daikon is also known as white radish, Japanese radish, Chinese radish, winter radish, and luobo.
How to Use Daikon
Daikon can be served raw or cooked. It is often peeled before use, but the skin is edible so peeling is optional. Daikon can be thinly sliced for a garnish, diced for cooking, grated for pickling, or used in baked goods and savory dishes. The greens, when available, can be added raw to salads or stirred into soups and other hot dishes. The sprouts, or kaiware, are used raw in 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 the peppery red radish. The level of spice can depend on the variety, with some having a stronger flavor. The flesh is very crunchy and juicy. Cooked daikon tastes mellow and sweet and becomes tender, like cooked turnip. The greens are very peppery with a pungent flavor that mellows slightly when cooked.
- Chinese Daikon, Carrot, and Tomato Beef Stew
- Braised Daikon Radish (Daikon no Nimono)
- Spicy Japanese Daikon Pickles (Tsukemono)
Where to Buy Daikon
Daikon can be found in some supermarkets and Asian markets, where it's often sold loose by the pound and available year-round. If you're shopping for your vegetables locally ,the radish is in season in the winter and is available at some farmers markets and CSAs.
Depending on the variety, white radishes can range in length from about 6 inches to as long as one's 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 also grow daikon radish at home. Plant the seeds in the 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 such as potatoes and adds nutrients back into the earth.
If the leaves are still attached to your daikon, remove them and store separately. The leaves will keep for up to three days wrapped in paper towels and stored in a plastic bag. The unwashed root will keep for one or two weeks wrapped in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
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.
Nutrition and Benefits
Daikon radish is very low in calories, with only 18 calories per 100 grams, and is almost completely fat free. The root vegetable is a good source of vitamin C, containing 27 percent of the recommended daily value. Daikon are also thought to aid in digestion, especially of fatty foods.
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.