While the long, lean white daikon radish may seem like an intimidating culinary challenge, these scrumptious roots are crisp, flavorful delights that can be incorporated into a wide array of recipes. A short list of my favorite uses: sliced into matchsticks, tossed with Napa cabbage, carrots, chopped cashews and an Asian pear, and topped with a sesame-ginger dressing for a crunchy salad; tossed into a mushroom-vegetable soup; and grated as a topping for any dish I would otherwise top with crisp greens or other crunchy veggies when those other options are out of season. Although the daikon is traditionally used in Asian cuisine, the flavor of this radish knows no cultural limits and is a great vegetable to store for winter in your fridge or root cellar to add in to any dish that needs a spicy vegetable component with a crispy mouthfeel.
The following recipe is my adaptation of a traditional Chinese New Year recipe for Turnip Cake (Law Bok Gow) and Daikon Radish Cake (Luo Bo Gao). The original Turnip Cake recipe and the Daikon Radish Cake recipe require a steaming process followed by an (optional) instruction to slice and fry the cake. For my Daikon Cake recipe, I prefer to bake the cake (it is a cake after all), and have only fried slices of the resulting cake once. It’s just so good by itself, preferably served in slices atop a bed of steamed or sautéed gingery bok choy (or other tasty green). I’ve found the pork in this recipe is wonderful, but that a pound of tofu will also make a great cake. If I use tofu, I prefer to slice the daikon radish into thin strips, and do the same with the tofu, which gives the whole cake a texture unique to the grated daikon and ground pork of the recipe below.
3 cups rice flour
1 tbsp peanut or sesame oil
1 lb ground pork
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp tamari or soy sauce1 pound ground pork (or a spicy sausage)
1 large daikon radish (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds), peeled and grated, or 1 or 2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped (can use dried or other mushrooms if fresh shiitakes are not available)
3 or 4 green onions, chopped
Cayenne powder, to taste (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large heatproof bowl, combine the rice flour and 2 cups of warm water. Mix well until the mixture is smooth, set aside.
Heat the oil in a wok or a large cast iron skillet, and brown the pork. Remove the pork and set it aside. In the remaining oil in the pan, sauté the mushrooms, adding the green onions and daikon radish at the end with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Cover and let the mixture steam together for about 10 minutes. Mix the pork back in with the rice vinegar, soy sauce and optional cayenne. Add this entire mixture into the rice flour/water mixture, and stir until well combined.
Pour batter into a greased, square cake pan (the size is flexible, I use a 9-inch pan). Alternately, you can opt to use the cast-iron skillet you have already dirtied and greased. Cook in your preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Remove, let cool slightly, slice and serve. Serves 8.
Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely working in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can find Jennifer on Twitter or Google+.
Photo by Tim Nauman Photography