Foodstuff: Preserved Radish
The radish in this particular case is the large variety most commonly known by the Japanese name Daikon. This very versatile vegetable is preserved by a variety of different techniques all across Asia, especially by lactic acid fermentation, but the most basic method is by salt curing the flesh to dehydrate it and prevent microbial spoilage. The Chinese were probably the first to treat the vegetable this way but the technique is widely used elsewhere, especially in Korea and Thailand. Indeed, the product pictured above is of Thai manufacture…
The unpackaged product, it may strike you, rather alarmingly resembles the ‘leftovers’ from an ancient Egyptian sex change operation, and is not very visually attractive. However, once you get beyond the appearance, the product is very useful. The aroma, while not exactly unpleasant, is not all that appealing either. Fortunately, this aspect is not reflected in the taste.
Here you can see a cut surface revealing homogeneity to the flesh. When freshly opened, the product is very supple and the texture, which is probably the best feature, is quite rubbery (albeit in a good way), with a chewy, yet yielding ‘bite’ to it. The flavour, as one might expect, is dominated by the salt, but this is not overwhelming and the faintly sulphurous and mustard like qualities of fresh daikon are still apparent. The actual salinity will vary from product to product, but, if you are particularly concerned by this, you can soak the flesh to reduce the level. Generally, though, and for most purposes, this is not necessary.
Commercially packaged preserved radish can be in the whole state (as in this case), or it can be purchased shredded… as pictured above…, or chopped into a fine ‘meal’. Generally, though (the convenience of the latter two types aside) it is better to buy the whole article so that you can chop or slice it however you like.
Preserved daikon is very versatile and can be included in many preparations both hot and cold. In the former, they are well suited to very spicy stews and curries, and also stir-fried dishes. In the above picture I have illustrated a fairly generic ‘salad,’ or appetizer, preparation where shreds of the vegetable are combined with cabbage and Jalapeno slivers (first wilted with salt and then rinsed), before being marinated with a little oil and vinegar. In due course, I will be examining a few other uses, both in hot, and cold, dishes, so stay ‘tuned’ as they say….