Takuan – the transformation of a radish.

sliced takuanTakuan is fermented daikon radish. Packed whole in rice bran and salt and left to transform into one of the most delicate and luscious foods I’ve tasted.  I know that’s a strong statement, but in my experience, radishes are anything but delicate.  Delicious, but often with a strong bite and a bitter aftertaste. I expected a bit more crunch, but what I got was a softer texture, more akin to rare tenderloin beef stake. And then, a lingering sweetness, with just a hint of alcohol on the palette.

The process is all explained in Sandor’s latest book, The Art of Fermentation.

in the sun to dry[A side note: I visited Sandor a year and a half ago, and while in his studio, I noticed a crock on the shelf with Takuan written on it. I inquired, and he opened it up and retrieved a pickle from within.  After that first taste, I knew I’d be making a batch of my own.]

It’s a pretty simple process, and no chopping.

I purchased 80 lbs of whole tops-on radishes from a local food co-op.  I washed them to remove sand, and then put them on boards in the direct sun for about 1 week.  At that time I could bend the largest ones in a circle easily, and with no breaking.

packing the crock





I purchased and used pre-made pickling mix from a nearby Asian food market and followed the directions in Sandor’s book.  I drank saké while I packed the crock, and occasionally splashed a shot or two in the mix.one layer of radishes








filled to the brimI filled the crock then added the dry radish tops. Placed a plate and weight (which was a exceedingly large concrete cinder block).












To my amazement, the layers of radish and bran dropped nearly 6 inches under the weight of the block, and filled with brine. (I regret never tasting the brine, as it would likely by delicious.) Over the course of the year, the brine evaporated leaving a dark, somewhat sticky layer on the plate.



When I lifted the weight and plate, the tops of the radishes were still very much intact.  I had expected a brown layer of sludge at best. But the old radish tops were there, very much looking like radish tops, and with the aroma of fresh humus, mowed alfalfa hay, and alcohol.  They taste pretty good, too.

whole takuan


But the radish is really the gem in the crock: Very aromatic, golden nutty color, so wonderful on the palette, and so unlike the radish that I started with.

In addition to the great tasting pickle, in my research I learned that the Journal of Nutrition reports that Takuan has 7 times more vitamin B than fresh raw daikon.



Here’s the brand of pickling mix I used.

rice bran mix


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12 thoughts on “Takuan – the transformation of a radish.

  1. Hi Favero,
    Regarding bran-based fermentation in general, is it normal for there to be a mildly unpleasant smell (I know labeling it “unpleasant” is utterly subjective) within several days of starting to cure the nuka pot? It smells like souring wet bread. I am stirring the bran every day while I change the nuka-curing vegetable.

  2. To anyone who may be interested, here’s an update on my nuka pot. The souring wet bread odor mentioned in my previous post is still there, but there is another smell starting in addition. This new one smells alcoholic and is not unpleasant. The sour wet bread smell predominates but I feel encouraged by this new smell. I’ll let you all know how these smells develop. (This is very exciting for this total fermentation newbie.)

  3. As promised, here is my smell update, nine days after my previous post. The smell is now heavenly, rich, kind of nutty and utterly appetizing. So hang in there with the nuka pot; the initial slightly unpleasant smells give way to aromas you’ll want floating around your kitchen. The tastes are sublime too. I’m leaving whole roots in for longer (daikon, parsnips, carrots) and a continual turn-over of napa cabbage and bok choi. I have kombu strips in for seasoning, but I’m also eating them. Also, whole garlic cloves, ginger root and turmeric root.

    • @Wally Jasper-Yummm! I want to come to your house! I have only done lacto ferments with all kinds of veggies, I’m addicted! I might have to venture into this arena and I love you are doing other veggies along with the diakon. I’m salivating!

  4. ooh, cant wait to try this with the millions of daikon I am growing this year!
    Does anyone know the ingredients of the pickling mix? I am slightly paranoid that they put MSG/other additive into oriental foods…..
    Thanks to Wally jasper for your smell updates-very useful to me and many other I am sure!

  5. Hi there! Love your book and am anxious to try this w my tillage (daikon) radishes!! Question tho. As it is now Oct. not sure if I should still leave radishes outside in the sun to dry. Can I just put them inside instead? Recommendations? Thanks.

    • As long as it is not freezing, I would recommend putting them out in the sun on sunny days. Otherwise in a sunny window is fine.

    • In preparation for making takuan, I went to the reference library here in Seattle and found some amazing old books. They were written in Japanese, but my friend happily translated some chapters for me. There were several drawings of daikon radishes hanging indoors from shelves, poles and twine, always near a hearth. And always they were hanging separate from one another, even though in close proximity.
      I hung some of the radishes indoors and they dried well, except for when they touched each other, then they molded. If you’re moving or turning them daily, I’d say not to worry. But if you hang them in a stationary position, be sure they don’t touch each other. Use of a gentle fan would also speed up the process for drying indoors. (Google ‘hanging radishes to dry,’ then click images.)
      Also, check out this site for drying vegetables outdoors in freezing temperatures. http://en.rocketnews24.com/2014/01/10/the-simple-beauty-of-winter-life-in-japan/

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