It is a tuber that looks like the carrot, except it is whitish in colour. In fact, the carrot is known as "hong luo bo" which means "red radish".
It contains glucose, cane sugar, fructose, dietary fibre, vitamin C, amino acids, and potassium.
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe that it can help to clear phlegm, stabilize the breath, and is cooling. Children suffering from colds with dry painful throats and rackling cough are encouraged to eat it raw although I do not think they will like the taste.
It contains digestive enzymes such as diastase and amylase that can help break down starch into sugars. It therefore aids digestion and improve metabolism.
It is also affectionately acknowledged as the little ginseng. A Chinese folk saying "冬吃萝卜夏吃姜 不劳医生开药方" which means "Radish in the winter, ginger in the summer, and the doctor's out of business" alluded to its efficacy in dietary therapy, especially during the winter months.
Different parts of the radish can taste different. The top part is supposed to be sweeter so it is suitable for grating or used in salads. The tip is spicy and is usually pickled. The middle section contains the most liquid and is commonly used in stews.
Although daikon can be quite spicy, that hasn't stopped people from using it raw in salads. It just has to be pickled first.
The Japanese likes to pickle the daikon. One of the most distinctive pickled products is the yellow pickled slices that are almost always served in Japanese bentos. But cutting them into long thin strips and marinating them in some salt and vinegar is a common way of doing a quick starter. This is also a way to reduce its "bite".
It is also hugely popular grated and it is indispensable in the tempura dipping sauce. The grated radish imparts a certain depth to the thin sauce.
It can be cut into chunks and cooked in soups or stew. After sufficient simmering, it loses its spicy taste and takes on the flavour of the soup or stew it is cooked in. It is popular in stews featuring beef, lamb or mutton.
1. Beef soup with radish and carrot
200g beef fillet
1 small radish
1 small carrot
1 stalk coriander
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 litre beef stock
Peel the radish and carrot, cut into small cubes
Slice the beef thinly and marinate with salt and cornstarch
Bring the beef stock to a boil and cook the carrot and radish
Add the beef slices using a pair of chopsticks to work them around the soup to prevent them from sticking together
Once the beef slices change colour, remove from heat
Garnish with chopped coriander and serve
I personally like the white radish in stews where they are simmered to juicy softness and full of the flavour of the dish. Here are 2 stew recipes.
2. Stewed Beef Recipe with Daikon Radish, Earthy and Hearty
Any stew beef recipe that turns tough beef cuts into flavourful and hearty food must be cherished, kept and promoted. Daikon radish has detoxifying properties so adding it to a beef stew balances the dish and cuts down on the heaviness of the dish.
This recipe is non-spicy and slightly herbal. It is a gentle warming dish with the ginger and spring onion.
Do not fret if you do not have a claypot, use a dutch oven or a deep-based enamel pot.
200g beef flank
2-3 pieces ginger
1 stalk spring onion
6 cups of water
Directions (for claypot or dutch oven)
Wash the beef and cut into pieces
Parboil the beef pieces, remove and rinse
Peel the daikon and cut into pieces about the same size as the beef
Place the beef, astragalus, spring onion, ginger into a deep bodied clay pot
Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil
Lower to medium heat and cook for about 30 minutes
Add the daikon and salt
Cook till daikon is tender
3. Spicy stew beef with daikon radish
150g beef brisket, sliced
1 daikon radish
1 fresh red chilli
3 cloves garlic
3 slices ginger
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp chilli sauce
Salt and pepper
Sesame seed oil
Wash and peel the daikon
Cut into irregular chunks and parboil them for a few minutes
Slice the chilli open, remove the seeds and cut into large pieces
Heat up some cooking oil in a large claypot or dutch oven
Add the sliced chilli, garlic, ginger, chilli sauce, oyster sauce and stir fry
Add the parboiled daikon pieces and beef brisket slices and stir fry for a few minutes
Add sufficient water to cover the ingredients
Lower the heat to a slow simmer and simmer till the beef is tender and the daikon is soft
How to store and prepare radish
Pick radishes that have nice white, plump and shiny skin. Leaves should be green and plump. Avoid those with shrivelled leaves.
If you are going to keep the daikon for a while, remove the leaves and wrap the cut portion with cling wrap. Wrap the entire radish with newspaper and store in the refrigerator.
The skin can be eaten so wash and scrub thoroughly before cooking. If you want to remove the skin, do so with a peeler like you would with a carrot. However nearly 98% of the calcium in daikon are found in the skin.
It can be sliced, diced, shredded and grated. It is also a great subject for decorative food carving. If using raw, wash thoroughly, cut, slice or shred and let it stand in salt.
Daikon should be avoided by ...
People with stomach ulcers or chronic gastric problems do have to be careful not to consume too much daikon. People on medication or taking tonics are also advised to avoid daikon as it might affect the efficacy of the medications.
Famous Fried Radish
Photo by LaRuth at Flickr
I almost forgot to mention this, perhaps because this dish has nothing to do with soup. The big white radish is the ingredient in a very popular street food in Singapore: the fried carrot cake. The radish is shredded, mixed with rice flour and steamed into big cakes. These cakes are then diced into small cubes before being fried in a big wok with eggs and with or without sweet black sauce. Click on the hyperlink just above to see 2 recipes.