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Publication Date : 27-06-2012
“Mu” is more than just a zen meditation syllable. It’s a radish. It’s a mellow radish, although spiciest in winter, and rarely costs more than a dollar for a forearm-sized root.
The problem many of us have, though, is what to do with it. Raw, it’s an okay snack, the “kkakdukki” kimchi version and the radioactive yellow slices are everywhere (although I don’t like to think too much about how it gets to be that color), but stopping there is a far cry short of the ways this veggie can be used.
Thoroughly cooking removes the “sting” of the radish. You can shred the radish either using a knife, grater or peeler into “noodles” that, once boiled, have almost no bite and almost no calories. They even boil faster than most pasta noodles. You can use substitute white sauces, roast tomatoes or store-bought sauce with them.
If you want a crispier texture, raw slices about 12 millimetres thick can then be pan-fried in oil, adding a bit of crunch and flavor. An average-size radish serves two hungry people this way if sauce and rice are added.
There are recipes online for both this and other pickled versions. Like searching for “chobap” (instead of “sushi”), though, you’ll get more results you find if you type “daikon” into the query box.
Take half a mu and one carrot, and peel and cube them into 6-millimetre chunks. Knead a half palms’ worth of salt and a sprinkle of brown sugar into it. Let it sit in a bowl for a few hours. When you come back there should be quite a puddle.
Drain the water and quickly rinse the chunks in a colander or strainer. You want to get the salt and sugar off without putting too much water back into the vegetable. Let the water fall off the mu and put the chunks into whatever container you will use ― a mason jar or plastic container with a lid will do.
In a frying pan, toast sesame seeds briefly, until they turn a darker brown or pop. Don’t blacken them. Add about 1 cup water and 1 cup vinegar and watch the steam. As the pan cools, stir in 1/2 cup brown sugar and red pepper to taste. If you are unsure on the amount of pepper, start with 1/4 cup and adjust. When the liquid is steaming and the sugar has dissolved, pour it over your cubes.
If there’s empty space in the container, add boiled water to fill it. Let it sit overnight at room temperature and then throw it in the fridge. It keeps for about a month and hits peak tastiness at about the two-week point. If not “spicy” enough you can add more vinegar and red pepper, or if it’s too spicy, add more brown sugar and water. Be careful with the water as the acidity of the vinegar is responsible for preservation.
Sadly, no discussion of mu would be complete without addressing a rather unflattering effect: it simply gives some people awful gas. As one of these people I can tell you how to alleviate this. First, gradually incorporate mu into your diet. Eat four to five pieces of the pickle recipe above per day for a few days, then double it. Do that for a few days before you attempt any “mu main dish” like the pasta or “scallops” mentioned above.
Also, chew thoroughly, as mu is very dense and your system needs as much help as possible to digest it. If those tips don’t work, try ingesting more kimchi or yogurt to boost your probiotic count. Mu shouldn’t clear the room ― it should clear your hunger without straining your belt buckle.
Darren Bean! is a former prosecutor and lecturer in the department of Criminology at Chosun University. He can be reached at email@example.com. The exclamation mark is part of his legal name. ― Ed.