The Art of Katsura-muki with the versatile Japanese Daikon Radish
Written by Nadiah Sorait
Daikons are sold all over Japan - it's arguably one of the most versatile and popular vegetables. There are a few different types of Daikon, but the sweeter juicier version reaches its 'shun' (it's peak) in late autumn to winter. The sharper version with a peppery tangy flavour reaches its 'shun' in early summer through summer - but of course nowadays they are both available all year round. Radish sprouts are also a popular garnish for tofu dishes and casseroles and toppings for salads and are loaded with vitamins.
How to pick out a good daikon
Choose one that is white, dense and firm to the touch - if they still have the leafy green tops, make sure they're a lush green and look freshly cut. The best way to keep them is to cut off the leafy greens close to the daikon as possible as that is where they start to lose their water content. Wrap the leafy greens and white radish part separately in cling film and refrigerate.
Three tastes in one!
The top, or closest part to the leafy green, is firm and less spicy so it is recommended to be used in salads and stir-fries. The crunchy and juicy middle part is the sweetest and it is best enjoyed in stews and casseroles. The end bit tends to be the most peppery and perfect for 'daikon oroshi' 大根おろし (grated daikon) that accompanies fried tofu or grilled fish. It is also delicious marinated. The above is a daikon slightly pickled and rolled around salmon and 'uni' 雲丹 (sea urchin) topped with 'ikura' イクラ (salmon roe).
The art of 'Katsura-muki' 桂剥き
The skillful chef would start with a block of Daikon radish around 10cm (4 inches). After the skin is peeled, they make a thin long continuous strip of radish, using the knife in a circular motion - this skimming technique is called 'katsura muki' 桂剥き. The image shows how transparent this slicing is, it takes a lot of practice and wrist technique.
The strip is rolled like a carpet and cut finely against the grain. This makes connected match sticks of daikon that are crunchy and soft at the same time as the grains have been broken. Daikon aids digestion and is rich in Vitamin A,C, E, B-6, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. The daikon radish in this state is called 'tsuma' ツマ.
The 'tsuma' is used as garnish for sashimi and sushi. It can be eaten between different types of fish to cleanse the palate. Some people may dip it in the soy sauce for flavour or eat it as it is for a bit of fresh juicy freshness. Other examples of 'Tsuma' are 'wakame' ワカメ (seaweed) and 'Myoga' 茗荷 (Japanese ginger).
A quick daikon salad recipe
- a block of daikon, around 20cm long
- half a medium sized carrot
- a can of tuna fish
- juice of half a lemon
- salt and pepper
- chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1) Peel the outer layer of daikon and carrot. Cut into match sticks, place in bowl and sprinkle a table spoon of salt, leave for 10 mins.
2) Open can of tuna fish, drain.
3) squeeze out excess water from the daikon and carrots so they become slightly limp.
4) mix with tuna, add a squeeze of juice from half a lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with some chopped fresh parsley. Voila!