Daikon Water Kimchi is a crisply textured Korean pickle with a tangy flavor. It is easy to make and can be ready to eat in just two days.
Most people are familiar with the Korean Kimchi composed of cabbage, fermented in huge pots, and colored a brilliant, vivid red from lashings of Gochujang, or Chili Powder. There are thousands of types of Kimchi however, and many of these involve vegetables other than cabbage being fermented in brine, without a lot of other ingredients. These sorts of simple pickle are referred to generally, as varieties of ‘Water Kimchi’, in Korea, and radishes, especially those known by the Japanese name ‘Daikon’ are probably the most popular. The process is not complicated, and crisp, tangy pickles can be prepared, and ready for the table, in as little as two, or three days.
Notes on the Ingredients
Daikon are commonly available in supermarkets, but generally they tend to be quite large. If you wish to use ‘baby’ Daikon like those used in this recipe, you may have to grow them yourselves, or else use some other variety of small, white radish. That being said, most recipes for Korean ‘Radish Water Kimchi’ (aka ‘Dongchimi’) actually use cut-up pieces of whole Daikon, and you can also do that here. The whole, baby daikon, with a little of the greens still attached, look much nicer to me, though.
The pickling brine used in this recipe is composed of 4 ½ tablespoons of pickling salt in 1 ½ quarts of water. This is a little more than we will need but larger amounts are easier to work with, and it is much better to end up with a little leftover than to have to make up a second batch once you discover you don’t have enough.
By the way, for making any sort of brine-fermented pickles, you should always choose a non-iodized salt (Kosher Salt is good), as the iodine can cause your [pickle to darken unattractively.
The Basic Method for Daikon Water Kimchi
The first step is to rub the daikon with the extra coarse salt and leave it for a few hours (or even overnight) to soften and draw out some of the liquid. Once this is done, pour off the liquid that is expelled and give the daikon a quick rinse in fresh water.
This Daikon Water Kimchi is pickled by the age-old process of lactic-acid fermentation, in which lactic acid bacteria ferment available carbohydrates in the presence of salt. Happily, the salty brine not only encourages the ‘good’ bacteria to produce lovely sour pickles, it also inhibits potentially harmful bacteria or other spoilage organisms.
To do this, simply put the daikon and remaining ingredients into a suitable pickling container (glass or food-grade plastic preferred) and leave to sit at room temperature to allow fermentation to start. The length of time involved will depend largely on the temperature of your ‘room’. In very warm climates, a full day, or just overnight may suffice, while in cooler temperatures, two or three days will be better. Once fermentation takes hold, you will see a bit of ‘bubbling’ and the water may turn slightly cloudy, but the best indicator is the beginnings of a definite, but pleasant, sour smell.
At this point, the pickle should go into the fridge. The fermentation will continue, albeit at a slowed rate, and the sourness will develop more strongly the longer the pickle is left to age. You can start eating the pickle after a few days in the refrigerator, but at least two weeks is better.
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Daikon Water Kimchi
- 1 litre Baby Daikon or Daikon pieces
- 1 1/2 litres of Brine See Notes
- 2 tablespoons coarse non-iodized salt;
- 6 slices fresh Ginger;
- 6 Garlic cloves peeled and lightly crushed;
- 1 tbsp. Peppercorns;
- 3 tbsp. Sugar.
- Wash and trim the Daikon, as needed, rub well with two tablespoons of salt, and allow to sit for at least an hour.
- When the Daikon has softened, drain away any liquid that has been thrown off and quickly rinse it in cold water.
- Place the Daikon in a suitable jar, or other receptacle, along with other solid ingredients, and pour over sufficient brine to cover.
- Let sit at room temperature for 1 – 3 days until a few fermentation bubbles are seen and a mildly sour smell develops, then place in the refrigerator.
- Begin eating immediately, or else allow to slowly become more sour with continued fermentation.