Radishes - Three ways
And some simple preparations
It came to mind again the other day because I threw together a number of radish preparations into a meal that fit the technical definition (rice, soup, two radish dishes and fish), although ideally, the arrangement would feature an array of vegetables. To be fair though, radishes are two vegetables in one.
In an arrangement of ichijuu sansai, one dish of the three is the “main” component and can consist of a fish or a more substantial braise. Moreover, while ichijuu sansai is the most standard deviation, ichijuu nisai (two sides) and ichiju issai (one side) are perfectly acceptable alternatives.
An example of ichijuu nisai (only two sides) from Demon Slayer (credit to this Tumblr?)
There are specific mentions of ichijuu sansai from 1537, but its existence predates the recorded terminology. Its philosophy derives from kaiseki, or the meals that were served to guests during the Japanese tea ceremonies (Based in Zen teachings) of the time.
This does not mean however, that individual presentations of rice, soup, and other dishes did not exist until the 16th century.
In the Heian Period (794-1185 - or when the capital moved from Nara to Kyoto), it seems that meals (at least for the nobility) were not as structured and possibly contained greater amounts of dishes spread out over a large serving platter - a zen. As the culture moved away from one led by the nobility and more towards one led by the samurai during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) meals were served on individual zen. Thus, the presentation of individual bowls of rice, soup, and a side would have been well in place during this time.
Back to the radishes
Radishes from a Whole Foods in suburbia (the best kind) in my super tiny NYC kitchen
Because radish greens can go south so quickly, I try to take care of the greens as soon as I can. They can be intensely sandy, so wash them thoroughly and taste some leaves. Below are the three dishes that I assembled:
Radish greens cook down to nothing!
Ohitashi is a classic preparation of blanched greens (often spinach, but easily adaptable to broccoli, asparagus, and other vegetables) that are seasoned with any combination of soy sauce, bonito flakes, sesame, dashi, and/or mirin.
Blanched the radish tops. Drained, chopped, and season with about 2 teaspoons each of soy sauce, mirin, and sesame.
Feel free to omit the mirin if you don’t want the sweetness and/or add bonito flakes for more savoriness.
Senmaizuke (of sorts)
Senmaizuke generally refers to thin slices of kabura (called hakurei turnip in the U.S.) that have been lightly pickled in a sweetened rice vinegar. It’s one of my favorite pickles and commonly sold throughout Kyoto. Kabura are not so widely available here (although I snatch them up when I see them), so I made a variation of it using the radishes themselves.
Thinly slice the radishes and salt with a big pinch of salt
Leave to drain for 10-20 minutes and immerse in about 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar/1 tablespoon of sugar
You can eat them in 30 minutes, but they are better after several hours. If you have some kombu knocking around your pantry, cut off a strip and add it here.
Misoshiru (Miso soup)
Below is an extremely lazy version of the more properly written out miso soup recipe by Michiko. Miso soup made with just radishes and their greens is surprisingly delicious, but it will be more robust if you use a bonito-based dashi.
Add sliced radishes and greens to a pot of simmering water along with a strip of kombu.
Simmer and season with miso.
To this, I added some grilled mackerel, but I would have been even happier with some tamagoyaki. Unfortunately, my old pan got left behind in my move back to Manhattan. I’m currently on the hunt for a new pan and am debating between copper and iron. Does anyone have any pointers?
This traditional presentation of dishes is apparently what UNESCO had in mind when designating washoku - Japanese food - with the world heritage marker. Granted, when one is in Japan it feels like UNESCO is very indiscriminate with its world heritage markers. Literally very building in Nara is a UNESCO world heritage site. Also, this text is hysterical: “The Japanese make various preparations to welcome the deities of the incoming year, pounding rice cakes and preparing special meals and beautifully decorated dishes using fresh ingredients, each of which has a symbolic meaning.” It’s not wrong, but lol okie.
Eat the whole vegetable! Broccoli stems can be peeled, sliced, and blanched. The green part of the leek is absolutely edible (just slice thinly and add to whatever is sauteeing/simmering).
In addition to all of the depictions of traditional food, Demon Slayer （鬼滅の刃） is the most extreme example of Japanese cultural propaganda as entertainment I have ever seen. Tanjiro is one of SIX children and there are absolutely no foreign words in any of the dialogue. Pure Japanese only. It’s extremely campy, but so entertaining and started me on a long and meandering anime rabbit hole from which I can also 100% recommend Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (I know that am the last person to watch this) and Spy x Family.