If you have ever eaten 김밥 [Kimbap] (which is quite similar to the Japanese Sushi with a few differences) then chances are you would have come across a crispy yellow sour-sweet vegetable. You would find it either within the rolls themselves or served on the side with other dishes at Korean restaurants. This, friends, is the Korean sweet pickled radish they call 단무지 [Danmuji]. And today, I teach you how you can prepare it at home!
While easily available in many Asian supermarkets, 단무지 can be pricey depending on where you go, and how you buy it. It comes readily chopped, or you can buy whole pickled radishes that you can chop for yourself. And once again, depending on where you buy it from or which brand you choose, it could sometimes found to be too sweet or too sour, or sometimes too strongly flavoured by the pickling spices. This is down to manufacturer’s recipes, but once you know how to make it yourself then you can regulate the flavours and adjust it to taste. Making it yourself will also be more cost effective for the amount you produce!
It’s best to make it the day before you need it to allow the flavours to mature and the radish to pickle fully. You can, however, eat it about 15mins after making – it just won’t be as accurate or potent a flavour or colour due to being so fresh.
- 2 large 무 [Mu] Radishes (also known as Daikon or Mooli) You can also use the slightly rounder green Korean 무, but you will find the white ones more common.
- 1 cup of white Granulated Sugar
- 1 tablespoon of Sea Salt (sea salt flakes work best)
- 350-400ml Rice or Distilled ‘White’ Malt Vinegar (Rice vinegar works best, but it can be expensive for certain amounts. White Malt is a good alternative that is more readily available)
- 350-400ml Water
- 2 Large Bay Leaves
- 1 teaspoon of powdered Turmeric
- 10-20 Whole Black Peppercorns
Take your radishes and remove the top and root. Wash and peel them before cutting. What you intend to use them for determines how you cut them – if you wish to use them in 김밥 as well as side dish or a garnish then it’s best to cut them into long thin julienne strips (like I will demonstrate in this recipe). If you want to use them just as a side dish or garnish alone then you can cut the radishes across the widest part so they form thin discs. Chop into the chosen shape and set aside.
(You can add more or less peppercorns according to your preference, but it’s recommended to not put in fewer than 8. Bay leaves are best at 2 pieces but you can add up to 2 more if desired without overpowering the dish. The turmeric should be adjusted up or down ONLY if you use a different amount of water and vinegar. Sugar can be adjusted to taste, and it’s never too late to add more, even when in the jar!)
Bring the contents of the pan to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down and add your chopped radish carefully to the mix. Turn off the heat, and while still in the pan, allow the 단무지 [Danmuji] to cool to room temperature. The warmth begins the pickling process as it sits. It’s important NOT to boil the radish as it becomes too soft and won’t hold its crispness. Taste your mixture – if it’s not sweet enough for you then you can add more sugar to your liking at ANY stage after making.
Serve as a side dish with dishes like 자장면 [JaJangMyeon], rice dishes, fish, 파전 [Pajeon] etc. Use it also as a filling for 김밥 as well as on the side with it. It makes a great palate cleanser!
I chose to serve it atop my fusion meal of 김밥 style DIY Temaki-inspired hand rolls with cucumber, raw salmon, crab sticks and prawns on 김밥 seasoned rice with shredded sesame flavoured 김 [Kim] stirred throughout. 맛있어요~!
And that’s how you make 단무지 at home!
Please give this recipe a try and let us know in the comments below how it turned out for you – thanks for reading!