This dish has its origin in our time in Chengu, China. We lived in the Foreigner’s Hotel. This was known as “the Panda House” and, yes, with its fenced in garden, it did look just like the Panda House at the local zoo. Many mornings we would walk down stairs to eat at the hotel restaurant rather than cook in our apartment. This was partly because the gas was so iffy – the local children thought it was a great joke to shut off the gas valve to the foreigner’s apartments.
The set breakfast at the restaurant was a boiled egg, boiled milk (a whole long story in itself), mantou (steamed rice flour bread), shifan (rice porridge), and things to add to your porridge to spice it up, including peanuts and a variety of pickles. My favorite was the spicy radish pickle. This is my attempt to recreate that dish.
Karl’s Spicy Daikon Radish Pickle
½ daikon radish (about a cup)
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 Tbs. flavorless oil (canola)
1 Tbs. chili garlic sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 Tbs. sugar
1. Wash and peel the daikon radish. Cut the root in half lengthwise and slice in thin half moons. If it is a really thick radish, cut it in half again and cut them into ¼ pie slices. Place the slices in a bowl and sprinkle the 2 teaspoons of salt on them. Set aside for 1 hour stirring occasionally.
2. Rinse the salt off the cucumbers in hot tap water, drain and pat dry.
3. Put the oil in a large sauté pan and lightly stir-fry the radish. Add the chili garlic sauce and toss to combine. If you wish you may stop here and just serve the spicy radish as a hot vegetable by itself. It is really delicious and part of one of my favorite lunches.
4. Combine vinegar and sugar in a small pot and bring to a low boil. Add the daikon radish to a lidded container and pour the contents of the pot over them. Let cool and then place the container in refrigerator for at least 3 hours. They will be ready to eat then, but their flavor will improve over time.