“Daikon-ashi” (translation: “daikon leg”) – that’s what I learned to say in Japanese for a person with cankles! This white winter root vegetable is a long, slightly tapered, mild-flavored radish that originates in Asia. There are different varieties, but the most common is the large, elongated carrot shape with a diameter of about 2-4 inches.
Because daikon is so mild, it takes on a lot of the flavor in which it cooks. It is popular for pickling and simmering in dishes across Asia. You might recognize it as the pickled and yellow hued takuan in Japanese cuisine, or pickled in Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches. While I love pickling daikon in sugar, mirin, and rice vinegar, I wanted to elevate daikon from mere condiment to side and garnish for my Korean-style baby back pork ribs. Potatoes are the common side vegetable relied upon to soak up flavor for meat dishes, but this time I swapped in the lower calorie daikon. The daikon pieces that I added in the last half hour of baking and the grated fresh daikon at the end both added a subtle bright bitterness to the sweet and savory ribs. The daikon also became silky without losing its structure, unlike its more melting qualities when slow cooked in broth. Try substituting daikon next time as a healthy vegetable side with subtle bitterness and texture.
Korean-Style Baby Back Pork Ribs with Daikon: (Serves 4-6)
1 cup sugar
1 cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup sesame seed oil
¼ cup hot chili sauce
5 green onions, sliced thin
5 garlic cloves
1T grated ginger
1 cup of water
2 large racks of baby back pork ribs
1 large daikon radish
- Whisk the sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, hot chili sauce, green onions, garlic ginger and water. Add to saucepan and bring to boil over high heat, whisking constantly. Boil until thickened. Remove from heat.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with foil. Place large metal rack on sheet with foil. Place ribs on rack and brush each with about 6T of sauce. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.
- While the ribs bake, chop the daikon into bite size pieces. Reserve a 3 inch piece to freshly grate at the end.
- After 1 hour, uncover the ribs and add the daikon pieces. Brush and drizzle both ribs and daikon with more sauce and bake for an additional half hour. Let rest for 15 minutes before cutting between each rib. Rewarm remaining sauce as needed and serve with the ribs and daikon pieces.
- Grate fresh daikon over the ribs to serve.