Drying fruits, vegetables and mushrooms is not only a way of preserving them. First of all, they have a different use in the kitchen and often become so good and unique, they could never be substituted by their fresh versions (it’s maybe a question of personal preferences, but I would never put fresh mushrooms in Ragù alla bolognese). I have been drying fresh produce for many years (I have recently posted here several methods to dry apples), but doing this with the long Asian white radish called daikon has never crossed my mind. When I saw pickled dried daikon at Hiroyuki’s blog (Hiroyuki’s Blog on Japanese Cooking), I was very intrigued and curious but didn’t expect much more than a moderately flavoursome, interesting side-dish and certainly not the excellent taste and extraordinary texture it has changed into! I also like fresh daikon a lot, but once dried and pickled, it undergoes a magical transformation.
Daikon is one of the staple Japanese vegetable and its dried version is quite popular too. It is often used in simmered dishes and sold in two forms: wari boshi daikon (thicker strips) and shredded daikon called kiri boshi daikon (go to see the difference here at Hiroyuki’s blog). Harihari zuke (pickled dried daikon) calls for the thicker version (wari boshi daikon). Just like most Japanese pickles, these have a delicate, slightly sweetish taste, but this is where the similarity ends. The very special chewy, but at the same time crunchy texture is what makes them unique and, in my case, addictive. Thank you so much, Hiroyuki, for this extraordinary discovery!
If you don’t find thickly cut dried daikon, wari boshi daikon is ridiculously easy to prepare, whatever method you use (it’s also an excellent way to use up leftover wilted, dying daikon!). I haven’t even checked if I can get it in my city because I knew it would be cheaper when made at home and moreover I wanted to use organic vegetables. For this first experiment I used only one daikon, but after the surprisingly good outcome I have just started to dry a new, this time much bigger batch. This way I will have dried daikon ready any time I feel like preparing this wonderful snack again.
I have slightly changed Hiroyuki’s proportions in the pickling liquid and have omitted seaweed strips (see the original Hiroyuki’s recipe here).
If you don’t feel like drying daikon, you might like these tsukemono (Japanese pickles):
TIPS: In Japan daikon is usually dried in the sun. Of course, given the season, I couldn’t do this. In the winter I dry fruits and vegetables on radiators: it’s quick, it doesn’t require much attention and doesn’t consume any additional energy. If you don’t have radiators, you can dry them using either the oven set at lowest temperature or hang it over the stove and wait until it dries by the heat produces while you cook (the latter can last a bit more). Of course, if you have a dehydrator, you don’t need me to tell you how to do it. Click here to see detailed description of the drying methods I used for example with apples and which apply to most cut fruits or vegetables.
Fresh chili is not obligatory here, but a it is very pleasant addition if you like hot food.
Preparation (3 hours + drying process, if you don’t have dried daikon, which depends on the method used, see here):
1 medium daikon (about 300 g – 350 g/about 11-13 oz) or a handful (filling loosely a 125 ml/ 1/2 cup container) of wariboshi (thick strips of dried daikon)
4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or 3 tablespoons normal soy sauce+1 tablespoon water
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 flat tablespoon sugar (I have used agave syrup)
1 fresh medium-hot small chili, seeds removed
Frist dry the daikon (wariboshi, i.e. thicker version).
Peel the daikon, cut horizontally into 7 – 8 cm (about 3 in) chunks (I have cut my daikon in three parts).
Then cut each piece lengthwise in two, then cut each half lengthwise into 1 cm-thick strips.
They should be more or less similarly thick, but not necessarily identical.
Dry it following the instructions I gave here (using a radiator, an oven or hanging it above the stove).
When the daikon has dried completely (it has to be tough when you touch it: the drier it is, the longer it will keep; otherwise it can become mouldy), you can start the pickling process.
If dried daikon strips are too long to be considered “bite-sized”, cut them in two.
Put the daikon strips into a bowl of boiling water and leave there for about 30 minutes.
In the meantime dissolve the sugar in the mixture of vinegar and soy sauce.
Shred the chili pepper and put into the pickling mixture.
Squeeze the soaked daikon and dry it. Put it into the pickling mixture and leave in the fridge for 3 hours, shaking from time to time so that it pickles equally.
Eventually, the dried strips will absorb all the pickling liquid (the photo above was taken only after ten minutes’ pickling, hence the liquid at the bottom).
Such pickles can be left in the fridge for several days (or maybe weeks? I have no idea because I have managed to keep them only for two days).