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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hanging out the radish

干し大根

Hoshi daikon.

Even in Tokyo, aspects of the countryside find their way into the landscape. Winter might be cold in here, but most days are brilliant sunshine - enough to even get a tan in if you're out in it long enough! So here was someone taking advantage of the rays to dry daikon, or giant white radish, from the railings at the top of their three story building.

The daikon has been a staple of the Japanese diet from about 400 years ago. Its bland looks belie considerable nutritional value, particularly vitamin C, and, of course, it is rich in fiber. Its most common form in Japanese cuisine is grated (daikon oroshi). It is also popular boiled. Boiled, it is best known in the form of oden, a kind of vegetable stew, where it is simmered slowly for hours and hours until it falls apart easily under the chopsticks - a treat with a dab of mustard.

Dried daikon, as seen here, is not so common on the Japanese table, but the drying process accentuates the vegetable's natural sweetness. The process takes about one week. They are hung in bunches, preferably in a spot that also gets the wind, and must be brought inside if it starts to rain. Not exactly instant, but in Tokyo where everything changes so fast, it's nice to see something that really takes its time!

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