Why You Should Be Cooking (Yes, Cooking) Daikon Radishes
A couple weeks back, a friend served me pot au feu. I'm not telling you this just to brag that I have a pot au feu-making pal, but to share that when I went to pick out the chunks of what I thought were potatoes, he told me I didn't have to. Knowing that I'm eating paleo right now (it's a gut health thing), he'd made the stomach-soothing, bone-warming, long-simmered dish with daikon instead. I almost cried with gratitude. Then I took a bite and I did in fact tear up. It was that pleasurable, and I've been cooking all the daikon I can get my hands on since then.
Yes, cooking. Until then, I couldn't have rightly told you that I'd ever had daikon in any other preparation than raw in salads and sushi, or pickled into sunny yellow danmuji or takuan. I happen to be a huge fan of radishes, so this presented no particular problem for me, but having this spicy, crisp brassica stand in as an ersatz tater opened up a whole vegetable Narnia for me. What else could this wonder root do?
I'm delighted to say: Plenty. But let's back up for a second and talk about how to actually get one into your eager paws. Your best bet is an Asian market, and you're looking for a long, white vegetable that may resemble a ghostly carrot or cucumber, and equal your forearm in size if it's on the larger side. The leafy greens may or may not have been trimmed from the top, but there should be some evidence that they once existed. Haul your prize home, scrub the dickens out of it (daikons grow in soil like carrots), and get chopping. No need to peel.
If the leaves are present, they are indeed edible, and spicier than the rest of the vegetable and make marvelous kimchi and cooked greens, so don't toss them out. (As a rule of thumb, don't discard your greens—except for rhubarb’s, which are poisonous, but let's talk about that later in the spring.)
Watch: How to Make Easy Kimchi
As for the body, think of it like a carrot. You can steam, blanch, braise, simmer, boil, or stir-fry a carrot, and the mighty daikon takes to these preparations just as well. If you've got your hands on a girthier one, it spiralizes beautifully—yup, daikon "noodles" and curly fries—and can be sliced into pretty divine baked chips. But best of all, you can roast it. Chop the daikon into rounds or cubes, coat them in oil and a sprinkle of salt (no need for pepper—they're pretty volcanic as-is, but mellow out a little with heat), and roast in a 375°F oven, checking and flipping every 10 minutes until they're slightly browned and softened, but haven't totally lost their glorious crunch.
The roasted daikon is great as-is, but a dash of honey, your preferred vinegar, or a combo of the two pairs some sour and sweet with the heat, and your new favorite side is born. Pretty rad, huh?