Daikon Radish is naturally detoxifying. It is pungent, light, and warm, and is delicious in soups, salads, and as a pickled vegetable. Its detox effect is often increased by pairing it with fresh or pickled ginger.
Daikon Radish in Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda
The medicinal effect of Daikon is a function of its pungent, warm, and penetrating quality, which in Chinese Medicinal cooking balances the cloying nature of heavy, fatty foods like pork or lamb. Chinese cooks often add daikon to bone broth made from pork bones, as well as stews made with lamb. Japanese sushi chefs always serve Sashimi with shredded daikon along with the customary wasabi and pickled ginger.
The Natural Toxicity of Flesh Foods
Flesh foods easily produce a kind of toxic dampness when eaten in excess or without foods alongside that ramp up digestive fire. Its a natural by product of their high protein, mineral, and fat content. This is why all cultures pair heavy foods like flesh and breads with pickles.
Digestive Toxins Role in Disease
Ayurveda describes how when this natural dampness of overeaten heavy foods, or just weak digestion collects in the gut repeatedly over time, it forms a toxic by product, called “Ama” which is a kind of metabolism interfering gunk. And Ama is a major source of the kinds of diseases we see in wealthy societies, serves from asthma and allergies, to autoimmune conditions of the gut and joints.
Daikon in Spring
Daikon is also an excellent vegetable for spring, due to its “decongesting” and cleansing properties. Here it is excellent combined with other decongesting and cleansing vegetables like burdock root, dandelion greens, and greens from the choy family. Here is a burdock recipe for Spring, and here is a recipe for dandelion greens.
Spring is the time of year when we naturally have to detoxify from the accumulation of Winter. We tend to eat heavier food in cold weather, and the natural energy of winter goes to the deepest layers. So in Spring its natural to cleanse.
All vegetables have a naturally cleansing effect, but he more bitter the better. Pungent and bitter together are even more cleansing, because they stimulate our Agni digestive fire, which in turn burns off the Ama. Its no surprise that pungent and bitter pacify Kapha dosha which reaches its maximum in Late Winter and early Spring.
Daikon makes an excellent pickling vegetable, and is a favorite amongst Koreans, along with cabbage. The Korean beef bone marrow soup restaurant I used to go to, whose soup contained organ meats like spleen liver and lung, with a naturally building, but also toxic element, always served cabbage kimchee and pickled daikon with their soup and rice.
Daikon in Japanese Cuisine
Japanese serve raw shredded Daikon with any kind of deep fried food, for all the above reasons. Deep fried food, though warming, is also very damp producing, as it contains super-concentrated fat, and therefore a little harder to digest. Daikon, like radish, stimulated bile, which helps digest high fat. Then they often are deep frying crustacean seafood like shrimp, which are quite naturally toxic–many people are allergic to shrimp. High heat oil has a certain toxicity, too, another reason for daikon.
Japanese also serve shredded raw daikon with sashimi. Again, raw fish has a certain natural toxicity, and when we take sashimi we tend to eat more fish than when we have it as sushi, hence the daikon. Of course raw fish is also cold in the stomach, so along with pickled ginger and wasabi horseradish there is daikon.
In fact the Japanese love Daikon so much they even dehydrate it, which concentrates its onion-like flavor, bringing out its sweetness, too, for use in soups, especially in winter, when concentrated intense flavors are in tune with the more deep energy of the season. Kiriboshi daikon in Japanese (buy Eden brand organic Dried daikon like fresh daikon, is excellent as a base for miso soup, along with Konmbu sea vegetable and Shitake mushroom. More on Kiriboshi here.
Shitake is also an excellent blood cleanser and immune booster, and Konbu stimulates the thyroid function and cleanses lymph. Combined with the digestive properties of miso, this is a very delicious and medicinal winter soup, that you can modify for the season depending on your additional ingredients, such as
Springtime: fresh bitter greens, like dandelion. Add burdock root
Summer: Cooling hydrating veggies like fresh corn or summer squash
Autumn: Kabocha and other hard squashes, daikon,
Daikon Radish Miso Soup Recipe
Boil 3-4 cups water
Add 1 cup daikon radish, peeled, and chopped. I like half moons. Or use 2 tbsp dried daikon. You can always just add a pinch of dried daikon to any miso soup recipe.
Add 3 dried shiktake mushrooms that have first been soaked and then sliced. Use the soak water, too. (Wash before soaking)
Add 1 three inch piece of Kombu seaweed
Add 3-4 slices fresh ginger root
Bring to the boil, reduce flame, simmer till the radish is cooked.
Take 1-2 tablespoons mellow white miso and 1 tsp your favorite darker miso, like barley miso or red miso.
Mix in small cup of water into a dilute paste.
Add to your soup, stir, simmer for 2-3 minutes. Serve.
Garnish with fresh chopped scallions.
Daikon in Ayurveda
Daikon is spicy, warm, and light; so Kapha can eat it “till the cows come home.” It can only benefit, or pacify Kapha, even raw.
Vatta can benefit quite a bit from daikon, especially when cooked in soup, where it adds warmth and a kind of light heaviness, heavier than greens, lighter than potato or meat. Vatta can eat small amounts of raw daikon, but need to be careful with the spicy hot taste. Just don’t overdo it; its still a raw vegetable, so think of it as more of a condiment, when raw. Daikon can be used by Vatta and Kapha in summer to balance other more cooling veggies like tomato and cucumber
Pitta is the dosha that can aggravated/vitiated/elevated by daikon. Daikon cooked in soups is usually quite ok in moderation, and a balanced Pitta can tolerate raw daikon as a condiment when eaten appropriately, such as paired with cucumber. But someone with elevated Pitta, meaning, for example, with heat symptoms like rashes, hives, eczema, heartburn, needs to avoid fish, fried food, and raw daikon, as that is heat increasing heat. Pitta in general eats less fish and avoids fried food like the plague.
copyright eyton j. shalom, l.ac. san diego, ca february 2013 all rights reserved use with permission only