Zest and Herbs

Asian radishes

Since I started to explore new recipes and ingredients from around the world more seriously over the last couple of years through this blog, one vegetable that I’ve discovered has become a real staple of my shopping basket. The mooli or daikon (depending on what language you prefer to use) is a large, Asian variety of white-skinned radish and has become something I eat quite regularly. While it doesn’t hugely lend itself all that well to Western cuisines, its common across Asia from India to Japan and I’ve been really impressed by its versatility.

Asian radishes, about 700g each

A close relative of our own pink and peppery radish, Asian radishes vary in size and shape from small ‘icicle’ and ‘ponytail’ varieties grown in the summer to the larger, carrot-shaped mooli and daikon and green-skinned, rounder Korean varieties that are grown in the winter months. They have a much milder flavour than our own radishes too (with any pepperiness concentrated in the skin) but retain the crisp and refreshing texture. Because of their heat, small European radishes are only good for eating raw — like all members of the cabbage and mustard family to which radishes belong, the chemical responsible for their pepperiness contains sulphur, so when cooked, they lose their heat and instead take on a less pleasant and sour flavour. The milder white radishes, peeled, can be cooked.

Raw radish is a great addition to salads because of it’s crunch, such as in Meera Sodha’s Jaipur slaw. The Japanese commonly enjoy daikon pickled and stained red or yellow to serve with miso soup or katsu curry and in Korea, like almost every vegetable, the local radish varieties are fermented with chilli, garlic, ginger and spring onions to make kkakdugi or other kinds of radish kimchi.

Shredded radish salad with Chinese chives and black sesame seeds

Cooked white radish is typically found in stews or braised dishes. Miraculously, it doesn’t holds it’s shape and retains some bite no matter how long you cook it for, and it will soak up whatever flavours you simmer it with (I like to braise it until tender with soy and honey as a great Asian side dish). In many East Asian stews — a selection of dishes I think deserves far more attention than they get otherwise — daikon makes an appearance in the same way we might use potatoes in the UK, and as they’re high in fibre rather than starches, they might be a great alternative in such dishes for anyone looking to eat fewer carbohydrates.

Soy, honey and chilli braised daikon

Asian radishes are generally available all year round from Indian and East Asian shops, but from my experiences are always best in the winter months like most root vegetables. They also make the occasional appearance in most mainstream UK supermarkets too, labelled as mooli. So if you see them next time you’re shopping, I definitely recommend giving them a try.


7 comments on “Asian radishes

  1. dosirakbento
    February 9, 2015

    I’m lucky enough to find Mooli at the Korean supermarket 😊
    I especially love them in a simple beef and radish soup (muguk)


    • Simon @ Zest and Herbs
      February 9, 2015

      Now I’m living in a more rural area, I’ve lost my regular supply. I was visiting my partner a couple of weeks ago and came back with the two in the photo amongst other spoils (i.e. half my suitcase) from the Chinese supermarket – kimchi, yuzu tea and some other Asian produce I plan on writing about in the next couple of weeks too. Muguk sounds good – I’m having some in a dwenjang stew tonight!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bonnie Eng
    February 12, 2015

    I love eating daikon in soups and stews. After this post, I’m interested in trying them in a slaw or salad…I’d imagine that they are very fresh and crunchy this way. 🙂 Thanks for the insight!


  3. My mum used to make a goat meat chop and mooli curry with a roasted coconut & spice masala. It’s been years since I’ve eaten it. As you say, they retain their shape and the flavour is peculiar but pleasingly so, with a sour element. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Now, time to hound my mother for a recipe!


  4. Japan Can(ada) Mix
    April 24, 2015

    Oh yes, daikon. It’s so versatile and delicious! The only trick though is finding it fresh enough. It goes pretty limp and soggy quickly if it’s not fresh and most of the daikon around here has had a long journey!


    • Simon @ Zest and Herbs
      April 28, 2015

      Here it tends to come from China or India, so I definitely agree. It’s a pity, since the plants supposedly grow quite happily in the UK. I need to do more experiments with using turnips and other roots in its place.


      • Japan Can(ada) Mix
        April 29, 2015

        Hmmm… I’m wondering what conditions they need to grow now that you say they can thrive in the UK. Perhaps Canadian soil will be nurturing, too! We had a fantastic daikon the other day and ate the whole thing raw. It was addictive sliced thinly to munch on and in our regular romaine/tomato/cuc salad.


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