Sunday, November 21, 2010

A-Z Project: D is for DAIKON

As in: Shrimp and Daikon Salad with Ume-Shiso Dressing

D wasn't that difficult, simply because I couldn't think of anything off the top of my head other than daikon. Sure, if I dug around I'd find dates or...whatever else starts with D...but I really wanted to do daikon so it was convenient.

Japanese radish by day, R&B star by night

What's up with daikon? (For the record, I think daikon sounds like the name of an R&B or hip-hop star but let's stay on track here) Daikon is a big white radish from Japan. It doesn't have a ton of flavor but I guess the fall and winter roots offer more flavor than those from spring and summer; bonus. It's a little peppery, firm and crispy and is just as good served raw as cooked. My first impression tasting it raw was a real crispy arugula flavor but not nearly as strong; the pepper is certainly there.

I actually pulled this recipe straight from Gourmet Magazine and cooked it exactly as written. Sidenote: it's becoming clear as I do this project that since I desire to cook unknown or little used ingredients I'll be utilizing more recipes than I initially intended. Maybe not exactly as written, but I'd rather use recipes over just forcing something to work with a recipe or preparation method I typically like to make. Imagine how delicious the grilled daikon tacos would have been!

Umeboshi paste, shiso leaves. Cue up The Vapors on iTunes

There's an Uwajimaya 2 miles from here so it was super simple to get everything. I love that place even though the local store is showing it's age big time and is about as haphazard as the playlists I create. But, it still retains that quirky, cozy, neighborhood market feel that has been part of it's charm since we first moved here in the early 90's; it's certainly nothing like the downtown location (which is super rad). I've always liked Japanese food and flavors and I find myself digging deeper into that cuisine more and more and having Uwajimaya close by makes it really easy to fall in love with food that many people shy away from simply because there's a lot of confusion about what to buy, how to cook it, etc.  Sushi and teriyaki aren't the only great foods from Japan, trust me...

Here's what I used:

Mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
Rice Vinegar
Umeboshi plum vinegar
Umeboshi plum paste
Shiso Leaves
Soy Sauce
Brown Sugar
Vegetable Oil

Anyway, this was by far the easiest preparation yet. Basically, it's just thinly sliced daikon with grilled shrimp and a simple dressing based on umeboshi (they taste pretty much identical to plums if you ask me). That's it. If it took me 20 minutes preparation to make this entire dish I'd be surprised. But, it tasted fantastic. The daikon has a faint peppery taste and the dressing was deliciously sweet with umeboshi and the taste you just couldn't put your finger on had to be the shiso leaves. The super crispy texture of the thinly cut daikon (thank you mandoline slicer) paired with the firm shrimp made this unlike your typical soft and squishy lettuce-based salad with a protein, but in a really good way.

Plating change, still good looking

The flavors were great, it looked really nice and it was wicked easy to prepare which by my scoring makes the "D" dish a big success. I will certainly be making this salad again and would recommend this to anyone looking to expand your culinary horizons and sample some flavors not very common in our typical diets.

So, onward to "E" and for any Top Chef fans from this last season I don't think I need to tell you what controversial ingredient we'll be using.

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