For those who love banh mi, but don’t live in an area rich in places to get the popular Vietnamese streetfood, Andrea Nguyen’s new book The Banh Mi Handbook is just the thing for you. This recipe for Daikon and Carrot pickle comes from her cookbook, and she says if you have this ready in the fridge, you can “make banh mi in a snap.”
You can hear more from Andrea on this Saturday’s Good Food, and she will host a demo and book signing on October 4th at Surfas, and a tasting and signing at Grand Central Market on October 10th.
Makes about 3cups (750 ml)
Takes about 20 minutes, plus 1 hour for marinating
If you only have one pickle for banh mi,this is it. Many banh mi shops opt to use only (or mostly) carrot for their duchua (literally “tart stuff”). In your kitchen emphasize the slight radish funk for a sandwich with more character and cut the vegetables big enough to showcase their crunch; limp pickles get lost. Select daikon that’s firm, relatively smooth, and no wider than 2 inches (5 cm). A batch of this pickle requires one that’s about the length of a forearm. See Notes (below) for worthy daikon substitutes.
1 medium daikon,about 1pound (450g)
1 large carrot, about 6ounces (180g)
1 teaspoon salt, fine sea salt preferred
2 teaspoons plus½cup (3.5oz/105g)sugar
1¼ cups (300ml) distilled white vinegar
1 cup (240ml) lukewarm water
Peel and cut the daikon into sticks about 3inches (7.5cm) long and 1⁄4 inch (6mm)thick, the width of an average chopstick.
Peel and cut the carrot to match the size of the daikon sticks but slightly skinnier.Put the vegetables in a bowl. Toss with the salt and and 2 teaspoons of the sugar.
Massage and knead the vegetables for 3 minutes, or until you can bend a piece of daikon and the tips touch without breaking. They will have lost about a quarter of their original volume.
Flush with running water, then drain in a mesh strainer or colander. Press or shake to expel excess water. Transfer to a 4-cup(1l)jar.
For the brine, stir together the remaining 1⁄2cup (105g) sugar with the vinegar and water until dissolved. Pour into the jar to cover well. Discard any excess brine. Use after 1 hour or refrigerate for up to a month.
When daikon is unavailable, try another radish or similar kind of vegetable, such as red radishes, watermelon radishes (redmeat radish), and purple top turnips. Pickles made with watermelon and red radishes are a striking pink-orange. The turnip will be stark white.
Whatever you select, it should have bite. I usually choose red radishes a good 1 inch (2.5cm) wide, and turnips and watermelon radishes weighing about 8 ounces (225 g) each. If using watermelon radishes or turnips, peel then cut them into sticks like you would the daikon. Treat the carrot as suggested in the main recipe.
Leave red radishes unpeeled and cut them into rounds a generous 1/8 inch(8mm) thick. Cut the carrot lengthwise, then thinly cut the halves on the bias. The shape won’t match, but carrot rounds take longer to pickle. After tossing the vegetables in salt and sugar, let them sit for about 10 minutes so they’ll be easier to squeeze. Brine as usual.