The first Korean food I can remember ever eating was danmuji – sweet, yellow-colored pickled radish. It is often daikon but Korean radish can be subbed. Although other foods took me some getting used to (among them, kimchi, which is hard to believe given my love of kimchi and numerous recipes on this blog), this was an instant favorite and probably on some level was a gateway for me to be willing to try every other Korean food that came my way.
The combo of sweet, tangy, and crunchy makes it easy to love. This was back in my college days, tutoring two Korean girls every day in a restaurant owned by their parents. I never would have guessed then I’d be offering my own recipes for some of these items.
Danmuji is great as banchan (the many side dishes served with Korean food). But I started making it really because of my obsession with kimbap (sometimes spelled gimbap, seaweed rolls that are typically referenced as a kind of Korean style of sushi rolls, although there’s some strong differences). I’ll post a basic recipe some time soon.
You can find these sweet pickled radishes in packs at Asian and international markets and of course online. There’s also a Japanese version called takuan (often used in sushi rolls by itself) and it can be used in kimbap as well. These are tasty and a convenient way to more quickly put together some kimbap, but nowadays they usually have artificial coloring and preservatives.
My all-natural recipe (easily made organic) uses turmeric to create the iconic yellow color.
This recipe is for a half gallon mason jar, utilizing two large daikon radishes, but you can easily cut it down to a quart jar recipe with one daikon (halve all the ingredients).
You will need:
- Half gallon mason jar (or a quart jar and cut all ingredients by half)
- Knife & cutting board
- Large mixing bowl
- Colander or strainer
- Medium saucepan and wooden spoon
- Recommended: canning funnel
- Recommended: citrus hand juicer
- 2 daikon radishes (can sub with Korean radish), halved and cut into strips
- 2 cups rice vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 TBSP salt
- 1 finger ginger, sliced (~15-20g)
- 1/2 rounded tsp turmeric powder
- Juice of half a lemon
- Optional: 2 cloves garlic, quartered
1.) Slice the ginger & quarter the (optional) garlic and place all of it at the bottom of the jar. Juice the 1/2 lemon and add it to the jar.
2.) Peel the daikons then cut them in half. Then cut the edges down on four sides to create rectangular cubes out of the main part of these radishes. Further slice the edge pieces and the main rectangular part into strips of about 1/3″ thickness (or as desired). Note: especially if not making kimbap, the radish can be cut into 1/3″ – 1/2″ slices or cubed (eaten as banchan or with rice).
3.) Place the daikon slices in the mixing bowl and apply the salt evenly over them. Toss thoroughly until each piece is coated in salt. Refrigerate for one hour.
4.) After the allotted time, pull out the daikon slices and transfer to colander to drain any juice that has formed. Shake dry and then place the radish slices in the jar. (There is no need to rinse the radishes.) The best way to fill the jar is make two stacks of upright radish sticks.
5.) Prepare the brine by combining the water, vinegar, sugar and turmeric powder in saucepan and bringing to a rapid boil over high heat. Stir well.
6.) Give the brine a good last stir and remove it from heat. Pour brine over the radish slices using the (optional) canning funnel to within 1/2″ from the top. Seal tightly and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. Then transfer to refrigerator. Wait at least 2-3 days (a week is best) before using, to allow the flavor and the yellow color to sufficiently permeate.