William Woys Weaver Cooks Radishes
Asian Style Sauteéd Radishes
Asian radishes have fascinated American gardeners since the nineteenth century, and the list of new varieties seems to increase every year. I am particularly fond of Baker Creek’s selections of Japanese Minowase Daikon, Chinese Red Meat, and Chinese Green Luobo. These are big husky radishes with flavors that remind me of mild turnips – no surprise since they are botanical relatives.
It was that turnip connection that made me curious about the way these radishes are eaten in Asia: raw is obvious, but they are also cooked, pickled, salted and even deep fried. This opens up an entirely new culinary vista, so if you are planning to grow Asian radishes this year, start thinking outside the box once you bring them to the kitchen. They are healthy additions to the cool-weather garden, and I think the recipe below will give you some idea of just how creative you can get with Asian radishes. Furthermore, as I soon discovered, their colors do not fade when cooked, so they hold their own against high heat, which only adds to the pleasing visual effect when you go to serve them. If you do not happen to have Asian radishes in the garden, any of the other radishes in the Baker Creek catalog will work as substitutes. Use a mix of colors for eye-catching results.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a Vegan Starter Course or Condiment
2 tablespoons sesame oil or wok oil (see note)
1 pound mixed radishes cut into bite-size pieces
1 medium onion, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced paper thin
1/3 cup pared carrot cut into tiny 1 ½ inch “toothpicks”
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon finely minced red or green hot chilies
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar or more to taste
¼ cup baby spring onions sliced into tiny rings
Heat the oil in a sauté pan (or preferably a wok) until it begins to smoke. Add the radishes, onion, carrot, and sugar. Stir to coat the vegetables with the sugar, then cover and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes. Shake from time to time to prevent the vegetables from scorching. At the end of 5 minutes, remove from the heat, season with salt, add the hot chili, the toasted sesame oil, and the vinegar. Stir in the spring onions, adjust seasonings and serve either hot or at room temperature. This will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Note: If you like cooking in a wok, I highly recommend La Tourangelle Stir Fry Oil. It is flavored with garlic and ginger and adds subtle flavor dimensions to vegan-style dishes.