Carved into roses or sliced into salads (when cleaning out the fridge drawer reveals a long-forgotten bag of them, lurking near the aging celery), the radish has a less than flamboyant reputation. Nutritionally it is no superstar – no fashionable ‘Superfood’ tag for this humble veg - but as a member of the cancer-fighting cruciferous family (think cabbage, broccoli) it has its uses. My dog-eared copy of Healing with Whole Foods lists the clearing of sinuses and soothing of sore throats among its (few) attributes. Pedestrian qualities perhaps, but admirable nonetheless. More importantly, radishes possess a crisp, peppery bite that’s perfect for raw nibbling. Pretty and pink, too.
Still, there’s that sulphurous smell unique to the cabbage family to contend with. Masking that pungency is the key. A quick and easy pickle of thin radish slices finished with a dressing of sesame oil and dark, complex tamari is my current solution.
The result? Crimped, frilly edges and a moreish balance of sweet, sour and salty. Make them part of a sushi platter, arranged next to your pink pickled ginger and obligatory swirl of wasabi. A small heap is a welcome digestive aid for a generous, Chinese-style banquet. Less conventional ways work marvellously, too – tossed with a few handfuls of salad leaves and similarly cut paper-thin rounds of carrot, the tamari and agave dressing will provide all the seasoning required. Carrots, I have discovered, themselves fridge drawer lurkers, stand up well to this method of pickling, as do small, sweet turnips. Look for perky green leaves still attached to your radishes as a sure sign of freshness - wash well and blanch briefly before chopping and using as you would any other gorgeous, health-giving green. Unthinkably easy, this recipe is also unexpectedly delicious.
Kylie Kwong’s pickled radishes
Though it is hardly a chore to slice six or eight radishes, a mandoline does make light work of the job, but only if you are confident that neither your knuckles nor your fingertips will end up on the other side of the blade. Mine is a cheap, plastic thing I’ve had for years and it’s perfect. Recipe adapted, slightly, from Simple Chinese Cooking.
6-8 red radishes, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of sea salt
1 tablespoon of tamari or shoyu
1 tablespoon of agave syrup or brown sugar
½ teaspoon of dark (toasted/roasted) sesame oil
A good pinch of chilli powder
Toss the radish slices with the sugar and salt and leave to marinate for 30 minutes.
Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Drain and gently squeeze the radishes, draining away the pickling mixture, then drizzle with the dressing.