Most radishes in the U.S. are known for their red skin and round shape, but have you ever tried the long and white Asian variety called daikon? Originating in Japan, this means ‘large or great root’. This winter root vegetable is easy to grow and has fast spreading leaves, which can be used in salads and dals. Our local Chinese grocery store stocks several varieties of daikon. The one that I’ve used in this recipe is the white daikon, called mooli in Hindi.
Is daikon radish part of your regular cuisine? Chances are that you have not tried this not-so-popular vegetable….or you eat it rarely. Could it be because you don’t know what to do with it, except, perhaps, eat it raw, or add it into a sambar or make stuffed parathas with it? When I spoke to other fellow gardeners, I was told that In North America, daikon is primarily grown not for food, but as a fallow crop, with the roots left unharvested to prevent soil compaction and the leaves (if harvested) used as animal fodder. That’s too bad…and if you are one of those that thinks daikon is not for human consumption, come along, and let me change your mind (or at the very least, make you reconsider and mull over the possibility of trying this dish).
This Radish Raita is an even-more-not-so-popular dish and it’s puzzling to me on why I haven’t seen many folks make this. It has everything going for it: crunchiness, flavor and nutrition. So, here I am – promoting this under-dog of the cuisine world.
Daikon radish may still be relatively unknown in the western world, but in countries like Japan, China, Vietnam, Pakistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh and India, there are several wonderful culinary specialties that are dedicated to this wonderful root vegetable. While traveling through Japan we got to taste pickled daikon, dried daikon and daikon salad.
Daikon radish looks like a white carrot. It’s a root vegetable, but instead of having a potent, peppery taste, it’s sweet, crisp and mild. Easy to grate, and available in every Chinese or Indian grocery store, there is no reason why you shouldn’t try this dish this summer. I must say, this dish is perfect all year round, not just in the summertime. It pairs well with many dishes and takes but a jiffy to make.
A few good-to-know tid-bits about daikon
- When cooked, it can release a very strong odor, and that may be off-putting to some. However, in the southern part of India, Moolangi Huli (or sambar – a dish in which roundels of this radish are boiled with onions, tamarind pulp, lentils, and a special spice powder) is very popular and well-loved.
- There are over 100 varieties of Daikon radish, most of which are near extinction due to the lack of commercial value.
- On the good news side, tonic made of seaweed and daikon can be used for the removal of toxins from the body per this source.
An old Chinese proverb states, “Eating pungent radish and drinking hot tea lets the starved doctors beg on their knees.” There’s probably some truth to this saying, as radishes are among the most nutritionally-loaded low-calorie vegetables you can enjoy today. They contain considerable amounts of potassium, vitamin C and phosphorus – all essential for good nutrition. Daikon is a low-calorie and low-cholesterol vegetable, but it is high in fiber and many other nutrients — qualities that are ideal for people who want to maintain a healthy weight.