Opinion I Radish reloaded as chutneys, pickles and kimchi
Explore the world of regional condiments with the roots and leaves of the radish
Radish is the most satisfying vegetable to grow in a kitchen garden. The seeds are sown directly in the soil, so there isn’t the extra work of germinating and transplanting. It is a speedy crop, unlike most other vegetables that aim to dig into my non-existent reserves of patience. Radish is ready to harvest in 40-50 days. The leaves can be harvested even earlier. The best part about growing radish is that you get two vegetables for the effort of one, the root and the leaves, both equally versatile and delicious.
I got talking to my neighbour and friend Roma about one of her radish chutney recipes that we love. She mentioned how difficult it was to find radish leaves with vegetable vendors. They feed it to cows as the leaves don’t have too many takers. Supermarkets and online vegetable delivery services also sell radish without the leaves as the latter wilt rather quickly.
While radish is commonly used in main dishes like parathas or sambhar, there’s a whole world of condiments like chutneys, pickles and fermented condiments to be explored.
Kashmiri cuisine has two interesting chutneys featuring radish, both going by the same name, muji chetin. In the first variant, radish is grated or chopped and crushed along with soaked walnuts, green chillies, coriander leaves and salt in a mortar and pestle. Some recipes recommend adding yogurt. The second variant involves sautéing coarsely grated radish in mustard oil with spices, topped with crushed walnuts.
Andhra cuisine has mullangi pachadi, which is made using sauteéd radish and ginger, ground with fried dals and chillies. In Tamil cuisine, radish can be made into a thogayal. Thogayal is a chutney prepared using all kinds of vegetables (even peels), which are first sauteéd until somewhat cooked and then ground along with red chillies, fenugreek seeds, andsome coconut.
The firm texture of radish and its seasonality makes it a good addition to north Indian winter pickles prepared in mustard oil in combination with vegetables like carrot, cauliflower and turnip. Try substituting radish for turnip in Lebanese pickles served with gyro, kebab or falafels which have a characteristic pink colour from the addition of beet to the pickling jar. This is a vinegar-based pickle made by mixing batons of radish, bay leaves, garlic, salt and water, and leaving it in an airtight jar for five-six days before refrigerating and serving it cold.
On the suggestion of Payal Shah, founder of Kōbo Fermentary, a fermentation lab-kitchen-workshop from Bengaluru, my first radish harvest of the season went into making kkakdugi, a Korean-style radish kimchi. The Korean word for radish is mu, and for this kimchi, it is cut into cubes and mixed with the traditional red chilli powder (gochugaru), salt and other flavourings. Unlike the regular kimchi, this is ready to eat in a day or two, although the flavours mature when kept for a few days longer. Traditionally served with soups, this can be eaten along with a rice bowl, or in a salad.
Shah’s favourite way of fermenting radish is a rather complex Japanese technique called nukazuke. It involves a rice or wheat bran bed prepared by mixing it with salt, garlic, seaweed or shiitake mushrooms, beer or wine, vegetable and fruit peels. Once this ecosystem is alive with lactic acid bacteria and yeast, as indicated by the aroma, the peels are discarded and whole radish (or other vegetables like cucumbers and eggplant) are buried into this bed for a few hours to a few days or even longer, depending on how strong a flavour is desired in the pickle.
ROMA SINGH’S ‘MOOLI KA THECHA / THECHUA’
Makes half a cup
2 small radish
3-4 green chillies
3 cloves garlic
Half cup coriander leaves, chopped
A pinch of red chilli powder (optional)
Half tsp rock salt
2 tsp lime juice
Peel and dice the radish. Slice the green chillies and garlic.
With a large mortar and pestle, crush all the ingredients together except lime juice to get a coarse paste. Stir in the lime juice and remove to a serving bowl.
Alternatively, coarsely grate the radish and squeeze out excess water. Grind the remaining ingredients to a coarse paste and mix it well into the grated radish.
Serve this thecha as an accompaniment to roti, dal and vegetables.
KKAKDUGI—KOREAN RADISH KIMCHI
Makes 1 cup
250g radish (around 2, medium-sized)
1 tbsp coarse salt
1 tsp sugar
1.5 tbsp red chilli powder, coarse
Half tsp ginger, grated
2-3 garlic cloves, grated
2-3 tbsp spring onion greens, sliced
1 tbsp soy sauce
Peel and cut the radish into cubes. In a bowl, toss the cubed radish with salt and sugar. Cover and keep aside for 1 hour. Salt will draw out water from the radish. Remove the radish from the bowl, squeezing it well and reserve the liquid. Wash and dry the radish cubes.
In a bowl, mix the radish with the remaining ingredients with a firm hand. Use a glove if necessary.
Add a few spoons of the reserved water back into the radish, mix and spoon into an airtight glass jar.
Press it down well to remove all the air pockets in between the radish cubes. Close the lid and leave it to ferment at room temperature for two-three days. You can then store the jar in a refrigerator, where it will stay for many weeks.
Eat along with any Asian meal or along with a rice bowl.
Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.