The Korean radish is a hugely popular vegetable in Korean cuisine. The root’s firm, crunchy texture is prized in pickled and fermented forms, but is also used fresh and dried. The leaves are also used as a fresh green vegetable.
Also known as daikon (Japanese), mooli (Hindi), Oriental radish, winter radish and white radish, Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus, is a mild-flavored radish with a large white root below fast-growing green leaves. Korean varieties (known as mu) often have pale green colouration halfway down from the top and are shorter and fatter in form than daikon and mooli.
This simple recipe from Su Scott’s Rice Table: Korean Recipes & Stories To Feed The Soul, is a popular seasoned salad of julienned radish in a delicious dressing. Like all the dishes in the banchan chapter of the book, this dish works well as part of an array of dishes to be served together, and it keeps well in the fridge for five days.
Korean Spicy Radish Salad (Musaengchae)
Korean radish salad can be made in many different ways. Some people say salting the shredded radishes beforehand improves the texture as it removes most of its natural water. I disagree. Unsalted radishes have a refreshing effervescence that is unique to the radish and adds a natural tanginess. I think that salting the radishsomehow removes that freshness and makes the radishes chewier and less crunchy. I am here for the sharp, mildly spicy bite.
Fruity gochugaru adds a moderate level of heat that balances the sugar. It isn’t uncommon to see it dressed with a touch of vinegar to sharpen it up; I don’t think it is necessary as it makes the salad rather wet, though it pairs well with carrot, beetroot or kohlrabi – all great vegetables to substitute for the radish.
Please do use a good-quality sesame oil as it works to bind and perfume the dish beautifully right at the end; I think it is the most quintessentially Korean touch. As with Sautéed Radish, the way the radish is cut is especially important to retain a good crunchy texture. Cut the radish into 5cm (2in) long pieces first, then slice each piece thinly lengthways before cutting into matchsticks. I like to add the sugar right at the beginning to properly sweeten the radishes. It is often said that seasoning the dishes in the order of sweet, salty, sour and jang (the trio of Korean fermented seasoning such as ganjang, doenjang or gochujang) ensures a more harmonious seasoning.
- 400 g (14 oz) daikon radish, julienned
- 1 tbsp gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
- 1 tbsp golden granulated sugar
- ½ tsp sea salt flakes
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 spring onion (scallion), minced
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar (optional)
Wear some protective gloves when you do this so you can distribute the vibrant red colour of the gochugaru through the white radishes, making them a mouthwatering orange-red without your hands ending up the same colour. Place the julienned radishes, gochugaru and sugar into a large mixing bowl and gently massage them by hand.
Add the salt, fish sauce, garlic and spring onion. Combine thoroughly with a good grip of the fingertips, pinching and massaging to bring everything together. Check the seasoning and add a pinch more salt, if necessary. Toss in the sesame oil and seeds. Add the vinegar, if using – I don’t for the radish.
The dish will keep well for five days in the fridge, stored in an airtight container. You may notice more moisture as it matures in the fridge as the radishes will naturally release their water but it doesn’t impair the taste.
We loved the texture and flavours of this simple salad which we enjoyed in multiple meals over a few days. Although it uses ingredients in common with Scott’s Charred Cabbage in Warm Gochujang Vinaigrette, it’s quite distinct from that recipe in taste and mouthfeel.
You may also enjoy other Korean recipes and content here.
Kavey Eats received a review copy of Rice Table by Su Scott from publishers Quadrille. Book photography by Toby Scott. Home cooking photography by Kavita Favelle.