We Americans are slowly coming to learn that sushi wasn't always about big, expensive cuts of fatty tuna. Sushi started as simple, everyday food and involved lots of pickles.
One of the missions I have set for myself is to learn more about Asian pickles. There's a lifetime worth of discovery awaiting, I expect, filled with all sorts of exotic spices, oils and potions.
This particular Japanese method of pickling daikon radish is extremely simple as long as you have the ingredients handy, including the daikon, yellow miso and standard cheesecloth. Our local Whole Foods carries all three.
Traditionally, the daikon is left out in the sun for a few days until it is limp and somewhat shrunken. I imagine this is to remove some of the moisture from the radish and intensify the flavor. Afterwards, the radish is sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces, as in the picture above, and pressed between layers of cheesecloth spread with miso.
Miso, a fermented soybean paste, has an intense flavor of its own. Like many fermented foods, miso comes in all kinds of variations with a range of flavors and intensities. Yellow miso is more on the sweet and mild side. In this recipe, it acts almost like a dry brine for the daikon.
1 pound daikon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup yellow miso
Place whole daikon radish in the sun for three or four days, or until it becomes somewhat soft and limp. Cut it into pieces about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch thick.
Toss daikon pieces with salt and place in a colander to drain for 1 or more hours. Spread half the miso on a ceramic dinner plate, cover with a piece of cheesecloth and lay the radish pieces over the cheesecloth in a single layer. Cover with a second piece of cheese cloth and spread the remaining miso over the top. Wrap the plate in plastic and place in the refrigerator for three or four days.
The pickled radish is ready to eat, but can also be stored in the miso for use later.