Daikon-no nimono: Cooked Japanese Radish
A massively oversized radish, daikon is a popular Japanese winter root vegetable. Less spicy than Western radishes, daikon features in a lot of seasonal cooking, and boiling brings out its natural sweetness wonderfully. Today’s dish is a simple but deeply satisfying side: basically slow cooked radish with a bit of pork in a classic Japanese sauce.
Wait, pork? In a vegetable side dish? Actually yes, just a bit. Makes everything much tastier.
This is a basic (if under-appreciated) principle of Japanese cooking: almost every dish has some kind of meat or seafood in it, even the vegetable side-dishes. Usually, it’s a very small amount: more to flavor the dish than anything else. On the other hand, very few dishes are centered around a big piece of meat or fish, like they so often are in the West.
In other words, in traditional Japanese cooking we eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
- Daikon – one full radish
- Pork – 100 grams
For the sauce
- Water – four cups
- Dashi – 1-teaspoon
- Ginger – a small piece
- Sugar – 4 tablespoons
- Sake – 2 tablespoons
- Salt – 1/2 a teaspoon
- Soy sauce – 5 tablespoons
- Mirin – 3 tablespoons
- Take one whole daikon and slice it into 8-10 cm. long segments. Peel each segment
- Peel the ginger and slice it thinly
- Slice the pork into small pieces
- Put the daikon pieces in a large pot and add just enough cold water to cover it. Set the pot on a high flame until it boils
- Allow the daikon to boil for 30 minutes until they offer a chopstick very little resistence when you poke them
- Drain the hot water, cool the daikon with cold water, then take them out of the pot
- Wash the pot with soap and water, rinse
- Return daikon to the pot and add the ingredients for sauce (four cups of water, ginger slices, pork, dashi, mirin, sake, sugar, salt and soy sauce)
- Bring everything to a boil over a medium flame
- Cook, covered, over a medium-low flame, for fifteen minutes. Every five minutes or so, uncover the pot, skim off the yucky scum that rises to the top as it cooks with a slotted spoon, then cover again
- Here comes the trick: cover the simmering daikon with two layers of paper kitchen towels, making a little dome. This allows the daikon to absorb the sauce better.
- Keep cooking under paper towels like this for another 40-45 minutes.
- When serving, do not add the ginger slices onto the plate – those are just for flavoring
For best results, you want to turn off the heat, let it cool, and then reheat a few hours later. So think about making this at lunch time to eat at dinner.
Usually, you would serve this as a side-dish in 1-soup 3-dish. However, we love this dish so much that we ate it as the main dish in 1-soup, 1-dish.