Sweet and crunchy, yellow takuan is a type of tsukemono that is a perfect accompaniment to musubi or ochazuke. It often is rolled into thin hosomaki sushi rolls for takuan maki. (These hosomaki rolls filled with vegetables, by the way, are eaten to cleanse the palate between fish-type sushi.) In both Japanese and Korean dining, takuan is eaten after a meal to aid digestion. This pickle is said to have been invented by the famous Zen Buddhist monk named Takuan Soho whose character, incidentally, appears in current manga comics.
You can buy takuan sliced into rounds and bottled or whole in long, plastic-sealed packages. The yellow color is artifical. Japanese daikon radish, which is used to make takuan, actually is white.
The original way of making takuan involves drying the whole tuber outside in the sun for three days until it wilts but you can draw out some of the moisture in the daikon with salt. It will be faster and perhaps more sanitary. Some types of takuan take three months to pickle. They also use soy sauce for a saltier, darker pickle but my favorite is this sweet yellow version with a bit of chili pepper. And it doesn’t take months!
Homemade Sweet Takuan
1 medium Japanese daikon radish
¼ cup coarse, pickling or Hawaiian (rock) salt
1 gallon water
2 cups white sugar
1 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp. salt
2 red chili peppers cut in half
1 5” strip of konbu (kelp)
3-4 drops yellow food coloring
Bring the water to a boil and add coarse salt. Mix until dissolved. Turn off heat and cool. Wash and cut daikon radish into slices about ¼” thick. Place the slices into a mixing bowl. Pour over the salt brine and weight it down with a plate and heavy object (like canned goods). Leave this overnight. The next day, drain well and rinse briefly. Squeeze as much liquid as possible.
In a small pot, blend the sugar, rice vinegar, salt and konbu strip together. Heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add chili peppers and yellow food coloring. Cool.
Place drained daikon slices in clean glass jars with lids. Pour the pickling mixture over the daikon slices. Cover and let the jars sit on the counter for one day and then refrigerate. This will be ready to eat in about a week or so.