An amazingly simple and delicious new way to cook daikon radish.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I use an ingredient in certain ways and I can’t get past those styles of cooking to move on to other things. Yeah, let’s just call it non-creativity. I get like that some days (ok, most days now that I’m working). This is why I love browsing through cookbooks or going to try new restaurants. I get inspired that way.
Recently, I got inspired by a Malay colleague. She had brought lunch from home that her mom had made for her. Being the curious foodie that I am, I went over to her cubicle and asked what she was having for lunch. She said, “Lobak putih masak lemak” (daikon cooked in coconut milk) and showed me her dish.
I was amazed. I never thought to use daikon with coconut. I’ve always used it mainly in Chinese dishes (like the Daikon soup or Asian beef stew) and I know the Japanese use it grated or sliced fine in salads and also in stews like Oden.
But this was new to me. It looked amazing and she offered me a taste. It was delicious. The daikon had soaked up all the flavors of the light coconut soup base as well as the spices that it was cooked in. I had to try it out myself. My colleague promised to get her mom’s recipe for me when I asked and I was all set.
This dish is really simple, it turns out. Basically, you slice the daikon to quarter inch half moons, pound up (or blend) a few simple spices and get yourself some coconut milk and you’re good to go.
I’ve found that you don’t need too much coconut milk for this dish. Surprisingly, the dried coconut milk powder you can get at most Asian stores work very well here. I only used half a pack with a cup of water, and the flavor was perfect. If you are using canned or fresh, make sure to get the light versions as the rich and thick coconut cream might overwhelm the daikon flavors. But if you LOVE the flavor of coconut, I don’t see why this wouldn’t work for you.
Cocolin Coconut Powder
As for the spices, all you really need are some garlic, shallots, big red chilli peppers (which are not too spicy, or you can combine those with some Thai bird’s eye chillies for extra kick), and some dried shrimp (rehydrated of course). And if you really want, you can also add a bit of belacan (but that’s optional).
The first time I tried it, I was afraid that the chillies would make the dish too spicy. Turns out that the coconut milk actually mellows out the spiciness so the first time, my dish was not spicy at all. Now I know to add one Thai bird’s eye chilli to my regular big red chillies (something like a red Serrano) to get some heat.
A word about the daikon. Around this time, you should be seeing loads of daikon at the farmer’s market. Some of them are sold with the green tops attached. If you see those, get them. The green leaves can be cooked along with the roots in this dish. As a matter of fact, they are quite a lovely contrast. One time, when I didn’t get the ones with the leafy tops, I substituted some kailan just to get the nice green contrast.
Daikon Radish with Tops
Daikon in Spicy Coconut Milk Recipe
adapted from Aziela’s mother (thank you Aziela!)
2 medium or 3 small daikons (with green leafy tops still on), skin peeled, sliced lengthwise and cut into quarter inch half moons. Chop leaf tops up in one inch pieces.
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
3-5 shallots, depending on size
3-4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup dried shrimp (rehydrated in some water, save water)
2 big red chillies (like Serrano) and 1 Thai bird’s eye chilli (optional)
1 tsp belacan powder (from roasted belacan that you have blended into a powder), optional
1.5 cups water (including the water saved from soaking the dried shrimp)
1 cup coconut milk
salt to taste
1/2 tsp chicken bouillon (optional), I find this not always necessary as the rest of the ingredients already add quite a bit of umami. Sometimes, I add a dash of fish sauce instead. Your call…
1. Pound in a mortar or blend shallots, garlic, dried shrimp, chillies and belacan till you get a paste.
2. In a wok, or heavy bottomed pan, heat up oil over medium high.
3. Once the oil is hot, add spice paste and stir around making sure not to burn it. If it looks like it is drying out or burning, add more oil and lower heat. Stir-fry until the spices are fragrant.
4. Add the water (I normally throw in the shrimp water, then add the rest of the water to make a cup and a half). Stir and let it come to a boil.
5. Add daikon (just the root part) to the spice paste and water and stir around. 6. Let this mixture come to a boil again then lower heat to simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring every so often, until daikon has softened (they should look a little translucent).
7. Add the green leafy tops and continue to simmer for another 3-5 minutes.
8. Add coconut milk and stir to incorporate. Bring back up to a boil and then turn to lowest heat so as not to curdle your coconut milk.
9. Finally, season with salt and chicken bouillon or fish sauce to taste. Simmer for a final 2-3 minutes and dish out. Serve with rice.
We just had this last night for dinner and my kids who are beginning to venture into curries and spicy foods enjoyed it. Esther even claimed that it was not at all spicy. She really enjoyed the sauce and completely soaked her rice in it. Yes, this dish works extremely well with rice. Give it a go and see if you’re not slurping up the coconut-y sweet salty flavors in this wonderful dish.
I am entering this post into the 260th edition of the Weekend Herb Blogging recipe roundup, which turns 5 this week! Originally started by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and now organized by Haalo of Cook Almost Anything, this is one of the longest-running food blog carnivals around.