Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

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[While I’m still getting back up to speed, please enjoy this recipe for ‘instant’ pickled radishes, great in any bento or in a salad. Originally published in May 2009. It’s kind of funny to re-read this post and realize we were still waffling about buying a house in France or not. I guess we did, after all!]

While radishes are available year-round, spring seems to be the perfect time to enjoy their crisp, peppery crunchiness. They are also really pretty. I love them just as-is, perhaps with a little salt, or sliced up in salads, but I’ve also been playing around with various formulas to make instant pickles or ichiyazuke (一夜漬け, or ‘overnight pickles’) with them. One reason is that radishes are dirt cheap right now at the markets in the Provence where I’ve settled for the summer actually gone and bought a house (aka the moneypit): 2 euros for 3 huge bundles. I can never resist a produce bargain.

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Radishes are not traditional Japanese vegetables, but flavor wise they are close to daikon radish as well as to kabu (turnip). Taking my cue from traditional daikon pickles, I pickled the radishes in a sour-sweet-salty mixture of rice vinegar, ume vinegar and another product of spring, strawberry syrup.

Ume vinegar, or ume-su (梅酢), also sometimes called ume seasoning, is a byproduct of making umeboshi (pickled plums). Its sourness comes from the ume plums, the bright red color from the red shiso leaves that are pickled along with the ume, and the saltiness comes from the salt used in the pickling process. Ume vinegar is available at well-stocked Japanese grocery stores as well as some natural food stores. The bottle here came from Workshop Issé in Paris, and is delicious.

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Strawberry syrup is simply made by combining an equal amount of ripe strawberries and sugar, perhaps with a little lemon juice to enhance the sourness, crushing the strawberries and boiling it a bit. This recipe on Recipe Bazaar would work well. You could also use bottled strawberry syrup instead, which is what I did actually. You could use honey instead of the strawberry syrup, though the extra red really boosts the colors of the pickled radish.

Recipe: Sweet-Sour Instant radish pickles

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Time required: About 5-10 minutes to wash and prep the radishes and put them in the pickling mix. Several hours to let them ‘mature’ in the refrigerator.

For about 20 to 30 radishes, depending on how big they are:

  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 3/4 cup ume vinegar
  • 1/4 cup strawberry syrup or honey

Combine the liquids well. (If you need more, increase the amounts at the same proportions: 4 parts vinegar, 3 parts ume vinegar, and 1 part sweetener.)

Cut the green leaves off the radishes and reserve for another recipe. Trim each radish, taking off the long hairy root part and most or all of the green part. If the radishes are small, leave them whole, otherwise cut them into halves or quarters.

Put the radishes in a non-reactive container (not aluminum or iron) and cover with the pickling liquid. Cover well and let rest in the refrigerator. They will be ready to eat the next day, and will keep in the refrigerator for about a week before the radishes get a bit too limp, though they should still be safe to eat for another week. Please note that these are ‘instant’ style pickles (see more about Japanese instant pickles or ‘sokusekizuke’) and do need to kept refrigerated, and not kept for more than 2 weeks at most.

The pickling liquid can be used as a dressing base, although as the radishes stay in there longer the liquid does take on a radish-y odor.

These pickles are great to tuck into the side of a bento. They are also good scattered on top of sushi rice as chirashizushi (I’ll try to post a picture soon!). They are good to just snack on too.

What to do with the leaves?

Don’t just throw out the radish leaves - they’re packed with nutrition! I like to turn them into furikake - delicious and really good for you too! This radish leaf pesto on Chocolate and Zucchini also sounds intriguing.

More pickles

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33 comments

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Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Wow, these pickled radishes are like ruby gemstones, very very very beautiful and healthy, thanks a lot for your recipe.

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Sounds like something I will be trying this weekend!! Unfortunately, we dont have the gorgeous markets here where I am in Pennsylvania that you do in Provence, where I spent a good portion of my last summer and wanted to stay forever. Great place to settle down for a bit : )

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

These look yummy and fresh! Nice post.

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

I made these last night and they were delicious in my bento today! My only question is how long will they keep? I just did one "bunch" of radishes, and should I keep them in the vinegar mix or pull them out?

which is not to say I'm not tempted to just eat them all right now.

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

They should keep for about a week in the refrigerator, in a well covered container. Just keep the radishes in the liquid - they'll get a bit softer but still be crisp.

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Oh! This was so delicious! :D My grandma gave me a bunch of radishes fresh from her own garden and!!!! :] I didn't have strawberrysyrup and plum vinegar, though. I used raspberry vinegar and honey instead, but am very curious to try the original. But anyhow, everyone loved the radishes and asked for the recipe! THANKS a lot!

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Wow, Maki! I made these earlier, and I might have been impatient and sampled one already. That strawberry syrup is a great addition to the radishes. Because I can't get ume vinegar around here, I used a little bit of red wine vinegar (for color and a stronger flavor) and more rice vinegar and syrup. They haven't sat long enough yet, so I'm looking forward to seeing how they are tomorrow. They are already taking on that lovely color though.

(I'm thinking they'll be really good with cream cheese on crackers.)

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Love this post. The fact that you also gave us some info on what to do with the radish leaves is FANTASTIC. Def inspired reading this. It's these little tips that make me want to go straight to the kitchen ....

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

I've made quick radish pickles before (plastic bag, vinegar, and maybe a little salt or sugar), but the strawberry syrup idea sounds really interesting! It might be interesting onigiri filling, like a Japanese version of a radish and butter tea sandwich.

Thank you for your blog! My lunch hasn't been as boring (or fattening) since I discovered your helpful site!

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

I haven't seen radishes of that shape before... will have to check in our new asian market maybe they have them. Your pictures are beautiful, love the colors!

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

You can bet that i will give a try to this recipe since I usually buy a bunch of radishes and through away half of it. The colour you get is amazing!

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

I don't even like pickled foods and this looks fabulous! I will have to try this; if I don't like it, I'm sure my dad will, he pickles everything!

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Just checking out posts from last spring to refresh my memory and came across this one ^_^ I have umeboshi in the fridge, can I just drain off some of the liquid they're in instead of buying a separate ume seasoning?

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Hi Katie, you sure can use the liquid that th umeboshi comes in. Just be sure to check how salty it is (it could be very salty), and adjust accordingly if necessary.

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

I couldn't get any ume vinegar in spite of trying in my local supermarket which has a dedicated Japanese food section, as well as the Japanese mini supermarket. Amazing. Anyway, I tried making these with 2 parts red wine vinegar and one part apple cider vinegar to get the colour and fruity taste. I also used grenadine syrup in place of the strawberry syrup. This is the kind actually made with pomegranates, so it also contributed a lovely acidity as well as a nice pink. Tried one after a full day in the pickling liquid and it is really delicious, sharp and earthy at the same time.

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

It maybe labeled as "plum" vinegar. I have found that in the states, it is most commonly labeled this way. Ume is actually a member of the apricot family, so it may also be labeled that way as well!

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Fabulous -- would you consider posting this to Punk Domestics? I'm all about the pickles these days. Thanks!

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

The pickles are great.

But I've a question regarding photos. Are they made by a professional photographer or do You make them by Yourself?

Thanks a lot.

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Hi Przepisy, 95% of the photos on this site are taken by me. Some do come from other sources - example, featured bentos from other people, photos accompanying guest posts, product photos from stores or manufacturers, etc. A sprinkling of 'in-house' photos were taken by my family or friends. If it's not obvious that a photo is from an outside source (e.g. a photo accompanying a guest post) I try to credit it appropriately. The radish pics here are taken by me.

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

These look so good!! I love the "french breakfast radishes" as they're called here. This will be a nice little change from the beet pickles we usually make. And I'm really glad you're starting to feel better.

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

This sounds tasty! Radishes are in season now, so I think I'll try some. This has the added benefit of being something my husband might eat. I've been trying to get him to eat more veggies, and radishes are a veggie he actually likes.

For those watching their sugar, try the Toroni line of sugar free syrups. They make a strawberry flavor that's pretty good. Not as good as actually making a syrup from real strawberries, but still pretty good. I buy the bottles from Amazon and use them mostly in coffee or plain yogurt.

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

I love these! I've made them a few times now, and even though I have to change the foundations of the recipe a bit, they still turn out wonderful! The area where I am it's hard to find Ume Vinegar, so I've used red wine vinegar, and just extra rice vinegar with added flavors. There's this raspberry sauce that we get at the Dollar Tree (I can't think of the name for the life of me) and I used that in my last batch and just added a touch of extra salt with the rice vinegar. My boyfriend loves them!

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Thanks for sharing!!
I'm trying to get to know Japanese food more and more so all information and recipes are welcome. And I love this one, being back in Europe I need to work with European veggies ;)
And radish always used to be one of my faves I guess it's fun to play a little with it! Thanks!

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

I made these with daikon radish, peeled and cut into 1/2" x 3" pieces - the mild daikon absorbed the flavor of the strawberry syrup and ume vinegar, and they're outstanding!
Thanks for this recipe :)

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

The brand "Eden" makes a very good Ume Vinegar which I was able to get at Nijiya market in San Diego. Eden is more widely available in California than other brands and more likely to be available even in a regular super market too not just in a Japanese grocery store. Places like Whole Foods, Sprouts and the likes have Eden brand products a lot also. The small bottle was just $2.73!! I have a question though. I have never seen those slender type radishes! Not even in Europe and that's where I am originally from (Austria). What are they? And with the round "regular" ones, would you half them and then soak them? Thank you for the info!

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Those long slender radishes supposedly come from southern France, although something similar appears to also come from northern China. You can get seeds for both in the US (for example, johnny's seeds and places that sell heirloom seeds).

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Ooh, Maki -- would love for you to post this to Punk Domestics. We just happen to be featuring pickled radishes today!

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

Hello maki,
This sound are gud,simple,sweet and staylish,nd thank you for sharing and recipe,i can't wait for try to this,.............

------------------------
multideck

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

while reading through one of your recipes (I'm here a lot for that), I noticed you mentioned your prediabetic.
Have you heard of the book: meals that heal inflammation? by Julie Daniluk.
Don't let the name fool you, it's for -every- health problem. Ms Daniluk knows her stuff! she's a nutritionist by trade, has a cooking show and is one of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to food and health.
she talks in depth about glycemic index, long fiber foods to make you feel full (like hemp seed) and help you maintain a good GI. shes also has a check-off list in the book of what is high/med./low glycemic index food. (and of course, recipes)
It's worth looking into. ^_^ even though it's a canadian book. ^^' but I know you can get it on amazon.

My grandfather was an insulin dependant diabetic, and it was heartbreaking watching him with those needles. I wish this book was around when he was.

as an aside, Thanks for the great recipes! I love that you have gluten-free stuff! :)

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

These look and sound delicious!!!
The only radishes I've seen in the UK are the little round ones but I really want to try the long thin ones, I may have to grow my own and I can then try this amazing recipe!

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

This may sound a little bit weird, but I would just love to put a radish in my mouth right now! :) It is Japan that made me appreciate such simple and perfect things.. but strawberry syrup.. now I'm intrigued! I will have to try on my next visit to Japan and try to cope here in the pickled-less China ;)

Re: Sweet, sour and salty 'instant' radish pickles

There are tons of pickled and preserved foods in Chinese cuisine though...

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