Preserved Radish, or Turnip, is Daikon preserved with salt in the Chinese style. Learn how to prepare and use it in your own dishes here.
The item in the picture may look rather alarmingly the ‘leftovers’ from an ancient Egyptian sex change operation, but it is, in fact, a type of very large Radish that has been preserved by salting. This type of Radish in question is most commonly known by its Japanese name ‘Daikon’ these days, but you can also find it in supermarkets as ‘Lo Bok’ (the Cantonese name), or ‘Mooli’.
Daikon 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 result, using this particular technique, may not look all that appealing, but it is actually a versatile and tasty ingredient in all sorts of dishes.
How to Buy Preserved Radish / Turnip
The package of whole Preserved Radish you see above is a Thai product, but there are all sorts available in Asian grocery stores in larger communities, or else online. When purchasing, feel the package and make sure the Radish is still relatively soft and pliable.
It is also possible to buy packages of Preserved Radish that have been pre-shredded, as shown above. Some manufacturers also sell packages with the Radish chopped into a ‘meal’ of varying degrees of coarseness. Both forms are somewhat convenient, but, really, it makes sense to purchase the whole variety as you then have the choice to slice, shred, or chop them any way you like.
The Texture and Taste of Chinese Preserved Radish
Here, you can see a piece of whole Preserved Radish sliced to reveal the surface of the cut section. The flesh is quite homogenous and, when fresh, it is very supple. The texture, which is one of the best features of this ingredient, is quite ‘rubbery’ (albeit in a good way), and has a chewy, yet yielding ‘bite’ to it that holds up well during cooking.
The flavour, as one might expect, is dominated by the salt, especially before cooking, but this is not overwhelming and the faintly sulphurous and mustard like qualities of fresh daikon are still apparent. Once cooked, the flavor is probably a bit stronger than fresh Daikon usually is, especially in soups, or stews and the like, but it is the texture that really makes this ingredient work well in many dishes.
How do you Prepare Preserved Turnip/ Radish?
Because this form of Preserved Radish uses Salt for preservation, it may be necessary to soak it to reduce the saltiness before cooking. Above, you can see cubes of the product soaking in fresh water. The actual salinity will vary from product to product so, how long you soak it, or whether you even need to, will depend on the initial saltiness, and whether other ingredients in an intended dish have high salt levels also.
If you have product that is very salty, and will also be using something like, say, a vey salty Gochujang Chili Paste (for instance} then cover your chopped, or sliced Preserved Radish with lots of cold water, soak for a few hours, and repeat with changes of water until the salinity reaches an acceptable level. With many types, this process will be brief, and may not even be needed at all.
Using Chinese Preserved Radish in Recipes
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.
This is a Korean Preserved Daikin Banchan preparation that keeps for ages and would typically be served along with other Banchan side dishes at a Korean meal.
This dish of Pork with Preserved Radish stir-fries cubes of the Radish with slivers of Chinese Black Mushrooms.