Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Support Japanese Home Cooks! - Daikon Salad

One month has past since the devastating magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.  Right after I saw the news on March 11th, I called my family in Tokyo.  The phone line was down, and that made me nervous and very worried.  When the phone finally rang a few hours later, my aunt picked it up and said, "I thought I was going to die."  Even in Tokyo which is far from the epicenter, the magnitude was close to 6.  More than ten thousand people died, mostly from the monstrous tsunami in northern Japan. Fifteen thousand people are still missing, and more than one hundred fifty thousands are displaced and living in shelters.

 Many Americans will never experienced an earthquake in their lifetime, but Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone countries, and because of that, it is also one of the most educated on the subjects of earthquakes and tsunamis.  In elementary school, we practiced drills both inside and outside of the school. Outside drills were held at a nearby park in small groups. The firefighters came with a special truck which can simulate earthquakes up to magnitude 6, and we all learned how powerful and horrifying the earthquakes could be.  People were well-prepared, however, a magnitude 9 was unimaginable even by Japaneses standards.

As if the earthquake and tsunami weren't bad enough, everything was compounded by the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant where Tokyo Electric Power Co., also known as TEPCO, failed to prevent a radiation leak.  Because of this, many families living in a 20-mile radius of the plant had to be evacuated.  Farmers around the area were completely at a loss as the land became contaminated by radiation.  However, residents of the immediately surrounding areas were not the only victims of this crisis.  TEPCO is a monopoly that services most of Japan's populated areas, including Tokyo and its surrounding seven prefectures.  There were rolling blackouts, and everything including trains and traffic lights were shutdown for three hours a day.  Batteries and instant food disappeared from store shelves, and one of the busiest cities in the world went dark.  The situation is gradually getting back to normal, however as the Fukushima plant is still in critical condition and will likely be abandoned, people must reduce their electricity usage in order to prevent summer outages and possible further rolling blackouts.

In the midst of this energy crisis, Japanese home cooks are minimizing their energy consumption.   My Japanese blog is registered at "Recipe Blog," a well organized Japanese food blog portal site.  The site always has several topics for posts by contributing bloggers.  After the earthquake, the site added new topics such as recipes that don't require gas/electricity and recipes without water (due to the increased water radiation levels in certain areas.)  Hundreds of recipes have been added to these categories, and I also became one of the contributors since, besides donations, this is one of the few ways I can support Japan while I'm here in the US.     

This is my first recipe along the energy saving theme.  It is for a refreshing Daikon (white radish) salad.  Daikon is one of the most popular vegetables in Japan, and it can be served raw or cooked.  top part of the radish has a milder flavor, and it gets slightly hotter towards the tip.  The hotness is not like what you find in a chili pepper, but is more like wasabi, which leaves no burning aftertaste.  Because of that, the top part is more suited for salads, unless you want to make it slightly spicy. 

Daikon can be prepared with a shredder, but hand slicing produces a crunchier texture.  If you are not a fan of the sour taste, replace half the amount of lemon juice with sesame oil.  You could also add ham strips or a half can of tuna if you wish.

Daikon Salad
Print Recipe

7oz (200g)daikon

1 Tbspsoy sauce
1 Tbspsesame oil
1 Tbsplemon juice
1 1/2 tspsugar

1~2 tsproasted and grounded white sesame seeds*
1/4 sheetnori, cut into thin strips (use scissors)

  1. Prepare Daikon: Peel the daikon and cut it in very thin stripes. Soak them in water for five to ten minutes. Drain well and set aside. 
  2. Make Dressing: Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl and mix well.
  3. Add the daikon and the grounded sesame seeds to the dressing bowl and combine until well mixed. Put them on a plate and dress with the nori strips.
Serves 2~4

*If you are using regular white sesame seeds, place sesame seeds in a pan and roast over medium heat until some seeds start popping (I recommend using a lid to prevent the seeds from popping out of the pan.) Cool them down and put them in a Ziplock bag, then crush them using a rolling pin.