Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Spicy Herbal Daikon Oden (Japanese radish slow cooked in broth)

Fall is upon us, reminding us that we are only human. We pull on our gore-tex and go about our lives in the horizontal rain, listening to the wind in the trees as we go to sleep at night. This is the time for tonic soups with things that warm us. Ginger, chili, pepper.

Daikon radish is huge, white and spicy. At the market in japan they can be 2 feet long and 5 inches in diameter! It's starting to become available at specialty grocery stores, and asian grocery stores here in the US, but usually much smaller. Like many Japanese foods, Daikon is medicinal. Eaten finely grated and raw, it can help the digestion of fatty foods. It is often included on the side of traditional japanese dishes as a condiment in this form. Eaten cooked it is a gentle tonic for the kidneys and respiratory tract, and a great thing to eat at the colder seasons come.

There are many ways to cook daikon, but I think the most delicious and simple is Oden. Oden is a traditional Japanese winter food often sold from food carts. It is made by simmering daikon, fish cakes, yam cakes, and eggs in a dashi (fish) broth. Karashi (Japanese hot mustard) is often eaten with it. In this modified recipe, we will be simmering daikon in a much different broth, but the process of slow simmering, and the resulting delicious, soft radish are the same.

This is a more obscure recipe that some people may be intimidated by. It's fortunate that the nearest grocery store to my house is a cheap asian grocery store that sells daikon, ginger, burdock, lemongrass, chilis and mushrooms super cheap. Luckily, nowadays many grocery stores carry these things.

Spicy Herbal Oden
Serves 2-4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1-2 hours

1 12 inch daikon radish, chopped into 1 inch thick rounds
1-2 small chilis, sliced lengthwise
2 pieces lemongrass, chopped into 2 inch sections
2 handfuls fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms
1-2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and julienned (galangal is better if you can get it)
3 pinches of salt
5-10 whole black peppercorns
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced lengthwise
OPTIONAL: meat bones leftover from another meal

Put 2 quarts of cold water into a pot and add all ingredients.

Bring to a simmer on medium heat with lid on. Try not to let it get to a rolling boil, as this can shock the vegetables and make them less tasty later. (This is true for sweet potatoes and lentils as well.) Turn the heat to low or medium low and leave the lid on. Simmer 1-2 hours. This could also be done in a crock pot, and may make the daikon sweeter.

Many of the ingredients are too woody to eat, so pick out the daikon pieces and pour some broth over them. If you want, you could add a splash of soy sauce at this point, but I like the clear spicy broth alone.

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