"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

The Radish Spirit

by Julie Tilsner on April 22, 2007

in Good Ideas Gone Bad

I bought a daikon radish a few weeks ago at Marukai, the giant Japanese supermarket not far from where I live. It’s possible to spend several hours at Marukai, perusing unfamiliar condiments and 27 different kinds of dipping noodles, and never even make it upstairs to where the furniture is. I have my Marukai game down, though. I know what I need, and I procure it quickly: Japanese snacks for the kids (Yam-Yam sticks and honey balls), noodles, dipping sauce, “fish bits” (processed fish roll that my kids, strangely, seem to love), Miso paste, fresh fish and of course, some chestnut mochi, because you know, oishi desu, ne?

And I swung by the produce section to get me some of those crispy Fuji apples. Then I spied the daikon radishes. Oooh. I was inspired suddenly to try my hand once again at the Japanese Breakfast. And didn’t I need a daikon radish to make the dashi – the base for miso soup?

I bought one: a large, sturdy specimen. I brought it home. It sat on my counter for a while. I looked up the recipe for miso soup and realized I was mistaken. You don’t need daikon for dashi, only kombu, a kind of seaweed, which I didn’t have, and bonito flakes, which I didn’t have either.

I didn’t fancy another schlep to Marukai just for these items. So the daikon sat unused on my counter.  I half-heartedly flipped through my Japanese cookbook for ideas on how to use it, but nothing enthused me. So the daikon radish continued to sit on my counter. My kids started referring to it as “The Radish Spirit,” after the silent but heaving character in Hayao Miyazaki’s fantastic animated feature, “Spirited Away.”

Then one night I drew a face on it. I added a little bottle-top cap.


Not long afterwards, I realized the face kind of resembled Tony’s.

Seinfeld aficionados will remember the very funny episode called “Fusilli Jerry.” Kramer makes a figurine of Jerry out of fusilli pasta.

I call this creation: Daikon Tony.

Daikon Tony sat on my counter for a few weeks, where he lost water and twisted and withered slowly away. I was forced to throw my creation away, for decorum’s sake.

One can extrapolate from this that I will very soon, probably this week, be back at Marukai, to procure benito flakes and kombu, and probably some small pieces of salmon to fry up for a traditional Japanese breakfast. Tony – the man, not the radish – is bound by honor to try it.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

BaddAss MisterJ April 22, 2007 at 5:45 pm

I wish you would’ve contacted me, I could’ve given you ideas how to use the daikon for everday cooking.
Yesterday, I went to Mitsuwa to get some of the “kara age” and “shu mai” that was one sale. So I also bought some “katsuo bushi” to make some Miso Soup.
Then today, I realized I didn’t have any kombu, but I didn’t want to go all the way down to San Gabriel from Pasadena to buy a package. I wanted to see if any of the “gourmet”/”specialty” stores carried what I needed.
I tried Trader Joes, we have 3 in Pasadena, nothing. Gelsons, zero. Wild Oats, ziltch. Bristol Farms, big giant GOOSE EGG! At this point I thought, I should’ve just have driven down to San Gabriel to an Asian store, then I thought I’d try one last place. . . Whole Foods!
I was surprised to find they had a high variety of Japanese Ingredients and different kinds so dried sea vegetables. I got my package of Kombu and it was cheaper (about $2.50) than buying it at Mitsuwa.
I had all the ingredients now to make my dashi, all the components to make Miso Soup for my family who have come up from The O.C. to visit. Then I was told they just order Pizza, and they sent someone to go pick it up!
Back to the daikon. . . You could’ve made chowder w/ the diakon, or just tossed it into soups like a minestrone. Or peel it, then cut into 2 1/2 to 3-inch rounds, and simmer it in a veg. or chicken stock for a semi-Japanese treat. Any small pieces I would grate up and add ponzu and green onion for a dipping sauce for grilled or steamed fish. But when I come acoss one now, I used it to practice my “katsuramuki” knife skills to thinly peel it all the way down to the core (w/o cutting my fingers), then stack them up and fold it, and get start to thinly slice it to make those shreds of daikon that you get when you order Sashimi. But I end up making a Japanese-like Coleslaw w/ Napa Cabbage. Hey here’s something you can make. . . Japanese Potato Salad!!!
All this Japanese food talk reminds me that I will be quoted on this Wednesday’s L.A. Times Food Section for my commenting opinon on last week’s article about my favorite Japanese Cooking Game Show, The Dotch Cooking Show. Everyone in L.A. should watch it before we lose it to the Food Network. So watch as much as you can before it gets off of Public TV this summer.


Kim April 22, 2007 at 7:02 pm

I can relate. Sometimes I feel like the main reason I buy exotic fruits and veggies is so my kids can compare how each type decomposes after sitting on the counter or in the fridge for too many days.


sher April 24, 2007 at 2:11 pm

Yeah!! This is much better! Your blog looks great–not that there was anything wrong with the old one! :):) Anyway, I love Daikon Tony. I think you could buy another one and glaze him somehow so that he lasts? Maybe? He’s adorable.


Bad Home Cook April 24, 2007 at 3:04 pm

?? Is that a challenge, musician?


AT April 24, 2007 at 3:00 pm

Thanks sher…my alter-ego was a bit deflated here but now redeemed!Maybe I’ll ‘last’ long enough to get this traditional Japanese breakfast I’ve been promised for over a year!


AT April 27, 2007 at 8:44 am

..in more ways than one…


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: