How to Marinate Daikon for a Vietnamese Sandwich
Just about every type of Asian cuisine uses marinated daikon radishes. Tart and tangy marinated daikon is often served before a meal to initiate the salivary response — or whet the appetite, in colloquial terms.
It may also be added as a condiment to contrast a dish’s rich flavors, such as the pork in the Vietnamese sandwich called “banh mi.” The satisfying crunch of marinated daikon, which you attain through a quick pickling, is half the pleasure of eating it.
Steps to Marinate Daikon for a Vietnamese Sandwich
Peel the daikon radish, square off the edges, and cut it into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Slice the pieces lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick planks using a mandolin or chef knife. Stack the planks, then cut through the stack at 1/8-inch intervals, which leaves you with 1/8-inch-by-1/8-inch daikon “matchsticks.”
Place the daikon in a plastic, glass or stainless-steel mixing bowl and sprinkle kosher salt and sugar over it. Use a ratio of 3 tablespoons each of salt and sugar to 1 pound of daikon.
Smooth the pile of daikon matchsticks level with your hand and make a mental note of how much they fill the bowl. Massage the salt and sugar into the daikon with your hands. Grab the matchsticks by the handful and squeeze. Repeat this process until the daikon expels 1/4 to 1/2 of its moisture, or for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Check your progress by periodically smoothing out the top of the pile and comparing the volume to where you started.
Place the daikon in a colander and rinse it with cool running water. Squeeze the water out of the daikon sticks and place them in a glass jar.
Heat white vinegar with at least 5 percent acetic acid in a saucepan over high heat. Use a ratio of 1 cup of vinegar to 1 pound of daikon. Traditionally, marinated daikon uses rice vinegar, but you can use any white vinegar as long as it has at least 5 percent acidity.
Add aromatic ingredients and spices to the vinegar. Vietnamese-style marinades typically use bird’s-eye chiles, garlic, ginger and coriander, to name a few of many. You can add any whole spices and fresh herbs you like.
Turn the heat off as soon as the vinegar starts to simmer and add sugar using a 4-to-1 ratio, or 1/4 cup of sugar for every cup of vinegar. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
Pour the marinade over the daikon in the jar and cover it loosely with a lid. Let the daikon marinate undisturbed for at least one hour or until it reaches room temperature. The longer you marinate the daikon, the stronger it tastes. Store the daikon in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Tips & Warnings
- Don’t use aluminum utensils or bowls when marinating with vinegar.