A cross-cultural conversation helps Seiji rediscover one of his favorite dishes from his childhood.

“Hey, so I heard you don’t have daikon is America. Is that true?”

That’s the question my coworker Seiji asked me at the start of the workday, wanting to confirm something he’d heard online. “Yeah, daikon isn’t really a thing in the U.S.,” I told him. “Like, you can find it in some Asian specialty markets, but most people haven’t ever eaten, seen, or really heard of it.”

▼ Daikon, shown by the arrow here, can be found at pretty much any grocery store in Japan.

“I was reading about someone from overseas who saw daikon for the first time while visiting a supermarket in Japan,” Seiji continued, “and they said they had no idea how they were supposed to prepare it.”

“Makes sense,” I replied. “I mean, there aren’t any standard American recipes that use daikon, and radishes in general don’t show up in a ton of American dishes anyway, so figuring out what to do with a whole daikon would probably be a head-scratcher.”

So Seiji, helpful guy that he is, decided he wanted to share an easy recipe to serve as an introduction to daikon for anyone who didn’t grow up eating it. The easiest method of all would be just to slice the daikon into thin strips and toss them in a salad with an assortment of other vegetables, but Seiji wanted to present something a little more interesting, so he went out to find the perfect recipe for daikon newbies…and when we say he went out, what we really mean is he went home and asked his mom.

▼ With Seiji being the biggest otaku on our staff, you might look at this photo of his mom and come to the conclusion that he was literally born from an anime character, but actually she’s just too shy to let her face be photographed.

Seiji’s mom cooked daikon dishes for the family a lot when he was growing up, and even now he can count on at least one serving of daikon whenever he goes home to visit for a few days. So he asked her for a simple recipe, and she was happy to share with us how to make her delicious “Boiled-Up Daikon and Chicken” (not the catchiest name, but even though she’s cooked it a hundred times, she’d never thought about what to call it until Seiji asked her).

For the ingredients, you’ll need:
● Daikon
● Chicken
● Soy sauce, bonito stock, sake, mirin, and/or ginger

Step 1

Start by making a small incision in the daikon, about one centimeter (a little under half an inch) deep. The outer layer is too tough to eat, so after you’ve made the incision go ahead and peel it off.

Step 2

Slice the daikon into discs, then slice those discs into fourths, so that you have a bunch of little quarter-circles.

Step 3

Place the daikon chunks on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and cook in the microwave for five minutes. If you want to get really old-school, you can instead boil the daikon in a pot using the leftover water from washing a pot of white rice prior to cooking, but with how much quicker and easier it is to use the microwave, that’s the route Seiji’s mom usually goes with.

Step 4

While the daikon is cooking, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Brown them in a frying pan, then drain off the oil (but keep the chicken in the pan).

Step 5

When the daikon is done microwaving, add the pieces to the frying pan with the chicken. Pour in 400 milliliters (13.5 ounces) of water, then place a cover on the pan and let it cook with a slightly low flame for a while, until the daikon softens up and you can easily pierce it with a toothpick (for this batch, that took somewhere around 8 or 10 minutes).

Step 6

Remove the lid and skim off any lye that’s solidified and risen to the surface of the water.

Step 7

Add in whichever of the seasonings listed above that you feel like. For a batch with 400 milliliters of water like this one, Seiji’s mom recommends two tablespoons each of soy sauce, sake, and mirin, one packet of bonito stock (generally about 8 grams [0.3 ounces]), and half a tablespoon of grated ginger or ginger paste.

Step 8

Put the lid back on the frying pan and let it cook until the liquid is gone…

…and it’s ready to eat!

It may not be fancy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. It’s a simple but straightforward flavor, hearty and filling without being heavy or bloating, and the ginger gives it just a touch of mature complexity. And if you want to get fancy with it, you can add or swap all sorts of ingredients. While she always uses daikon, Seiji’s mom has also thrown pork, carrots, and eggplant into the mix, all with tasty results.

Though Seiji had already eaten this dish tons of times back when he lived with his parents, he’d never tried cooking it himself before this. He’s now making it a part of his regular home-cooking meal rotation, so while his original goal was to introduce the recipe to all of you, it turned out to be a reintroduction for him too, and he hopes you’ll enjoy cooking and eating it as much as he does.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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