I think I have already mentioned that I grew up eating kohlrabi, but uniquely as a snack. If you have never had it (or if you were unlucky to have it only cooked), raw kohlrabi is a more delicate and juicier version of pink radish. This year I have tried to include kohlrabi for the first time in an actual dish and loved it as a green papaya substitution in the famous Vietnamese salad. I have kohlrabi in my fridge quite often, so I knew there would be a second experiment one day. Kohlrabi replacing the Korean radish (unavailable here anyway) was by far more delicious than when prepared with daikon, the very popular Japanese white radish, which, I’ve learnt from a reliable source, is much stronger than the Korean radish.
If you have already been in a Korean restaurant, you might have tasted saengchae, fresh spicy salads served in small portions as side-dishes. Apparently they are served in Korea practically with everything and from my own experience I can assure you that at least this saengchae goes well with anything, of course as long as you like spicy food. I found many moo (radish) saengchae recipes on web and in my cookery books, some including ginger or garlic, but finally for the delicate kohlrabi I chose the simplest one, from my regular Korean cooking companion: Food and Cooking of Korea by Young Jin Song. As usually, I have slightly changed the proportions and some ingredients, but I hope it still keeps a Korean touch.
TIPS: If you buy kohlrabi (also called “German turnip” and “turnip cabbage”) for the first time, it looks like a cross between a turnip and a very light green apple. Choose the smoothest one and not too big because it might become tough and fibrous. The smaller it is, the juicier and the crunchier it will be.
This salad keeps very well for about two days in the fridge, so you can make a double portion in advance and add to your lunch box the following day (as I did).
Preparation: about ten minutes+chilling
Ingredients (serves two):
1 medium kohlrabi, peeled
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon Korean chilli powder (or any other medium hot chilli powder)
toasted sesame seeds
chopped green onion or chives
1 teaspoon sesame oil
shredded fresh red chilli pepper
Cut the kohlrabi into very fine, matchstick-like pieces (a julienne grating tool is very handy here).
Combine the ingredients of the marinade (sugar, salt, chilli powder and vinegar).
Coat the kohlrabi with the marinade and put into the fridge to chill (this step is not necessary especially if your kohlrabi was already very cold).
Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds, chives/green onion, fresh red chilli pepper (I didn’t have it, since its absence in the photograph) and a splash of sesame oil.