Takuan (Pickled Daikon)

Today I got a quick recipe for you that you’re gonna love. It’s for a Japanese-style pickle called takuan. If you’ve ever had bento either Japanese-style or Hawaiian you may have had these before. They are the yellow pickled daikon that is usually stuffed in the corner of the box. You can buy them at the Asian market most times, but they are 10 times better when you make them yourself, and you know what? They’re super easy to make.

Spam Bento
Bento 2

Most times, the yellow color is made with food coloring, but today we are going to make ours with turmeric. It’s all-natural and gives the pickles another layer of complexity that just makes them that more delicious. I started making them about 2 months ago for some Hawaiian-inspired specials we did at Eats Of Asia. When you serve them with rich foods like pork or fried fish, they give a nice flavor complement as well as that snappy texture that gives a refreshing bite to the whole dish. You can even eat them by themself on a bowl of freshly steamed rice and they’d be incredible.

So what are we waiting for?

You will need:

3.5 lb Daikon

2 cups Sugar

¼ cup Kosher salt

¼ cup Rice vinegar

1 Tbsp turmeric

Daikon are available at most supermarkets these days. I’ve done this recipe with jicama as well and it turns out just as good.

Peel the daikon and cut lengthwise in half. Slice each half into ½ inch semi-circles. Put into a large non-reactive bowl.

Add the sugar to the daikon and toss to coat uniformly. Set aside and let sit for about an hour to an hour and a half, tossing occasionally. This is going to draw out the liquid. Don’t dump it out. We’re keeping this.

After the time is up, you should have a bowl of daikon and sweet liquid. Add the kosher salt, rice vinegar, and turmeric and combine until the turmeric is evenly dissolved. Give it a taste. You should have something with a sweet underlying flavor, contrasted by a kiss of the salt. If it’s up to your taste, you’re good.

young takuan
The young takuan before going into the fridge for 2 weeks.

Put into deli quart containers or jars and refrigerate for 2 weeks. The flavors will develop over that time and get better. Taste them again after a week and see how they’re coming along. Just a heads up: when you acidify daikon, like you’re doing here, they will get smelly. Just like when your ferment kimchi, when you make pickles with any radish or mustard family vegetable, you’ll get that sulfur smelling compound. Get used to it. If you love that stuff, it shouldn’t bother you.

Wasn’t that simple? All you need to do is care. I’ll teach you the rest. Take this recipes with you, make yours, and have fun in the kitchen!