Takuan is a Japanese dish of fermented daikon radish. It is a form of Tsukemono (Japanese pickled veggies), which are served as side dishes or snacks, and are even part of the Japanese tea ceremony. Takuan in particular is often served at the end of meal to help digestion. The name “Takuan” is often attributed to Takuan Soho, a 17th century Zen Buddhist figure and the creative basis for the character Dakuan from the anime film Ninja Scroll. Korean cuisine has a similar pickled daikon radish dish, called Danmuji (단무지).
The daikon radish itself made its way to Japan from China about 2,000 years ago. Today, more land in Japan is used to grow daikon than any other vegetable. Takuan sold in many stores today is dyed yellow with food coloring; I was able to get a similar color by using a tiny bit of turmeric while pickling the radishes.
2 large daikon radishes (approx 2 lbs)
3 cups water
1/4 cup sea salt
1/4 cup organic raw sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
You may notice that this recipe calls for sugar, which is something I usually avoid in my recipes. Considering that most of the sugar is eaten by bacteria during the fermentation process, I’m not too worried about the sugar content of the final product. That being said, it still carries a little bit of a sweet taste, so it’s definitely not sugar-free. While modern Takuan is slightly sweet tasting, the original recipe likely didn’t have sugar in it, so feel free to omit the sugar if you’d like.
If you are avoiding all rice products altogether, you can substitute the rice vinegar with white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
Boil one cup of the water, then mix in the salt, sugar, and turmeric. Stir together until dissolved, then add the rest of the water and let it cool to room temperature. The turmeric may not completely dissolve, which is fine.
As the water cools, peel your radishes and cut them into half-moons, about 1/4″ thick. Fill up a half-gallon jar (or two quart-sized jars) with the sliced veggies.
Once the water is cool, add the rice vinegar and pour everything into the jar. Add additional water if needed, until there’s about 1/2″ of air at the top of the jar. Seal and leave in a dark part of your house for four or five days. You may want to release the seal after a few days to let the pressurized air escape.
Be sure to gently mix your jar every couple days to make sure the turmeric colors everything evenly.
Place your massive jar of deliciousness in the fridge and enjoy within a month.
Serve with anything, especially rice dishes.