Korean radish along with giant green onion being sold on the curb side. This is real shopping-on-the-go in Seoul.

If there was only one vegetable to get to know in Korea, I would say it should be the Korean radish – called moo in Korean.  It is a super versatile vegetable used countless Korean dishes from vinegar pickled, salt-cured & fermented, and dried, to chopped into stews and soups, and also eaten fresh or even as a salad wrap.  It’s available year round, though it’s most sweet and juicy in season in the fall, and in late winter from Jeju Island.

Here is a Korean radish banchan recipe that I learned from my Mom recently; sometimes it’s called che-nalmul (means julienne cut vegetable) in Korean.  It’s technically not a traditional kimchi because it’s not fermented, but this is essentially the base that is stuffed into the ubiquitous cabbage kimchi.

Unlike any other type of kimchi, this one gets doused with a little vinegar at serving and topped with toasted sesame seeds.  This helps to mellow out the flavours and make it less spicy.  It actually tastes like a fresh kimchi salad so it’s great for anyone who’s not into the fermented-sour kimchi taste.

Crunchy fresh kimchi salad - a little spicy, tangy, salty, savoury. Beyond Korean banchan, it could meld nicely with non-Korean flavours also, say for instance stuffed into a taco or a burger.

There is just one caveat in this otherwise very simple recipe, and I swear just one.  As it should be obvious in the picture and in the name, the recipe requires some chopping and sharpening up your knifing skills.  I imagine some fancy machine could work, but a sharp knife and good old arm muscle works the best I think!

For chopping, I found easiest to slice up the radish into thin slices first.  Here’s a huge stack that I made, the tower of moo!   A worthwhile tip is to make a tiny flat slice on one side of the radish to level it and prevent it from rolling around while you slice.  Then, pile a few slices at a time, and make the julienne-cut to get long matchsticks.  Some patience required at first, but it did go much faster than I thought.

JULIENNE-CUT KOREAN RADISH “FRESH” KIMCHI

Feel free to adjust any of the tastes to your liking.  Be careful not too add too much too much fermented baby shrimp as I find this flavour very strong.  Fish sauce is also strong, but can be used to adjust the savoriness of the kimchi.  This sidedish is also great accompaniment to bossam.

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1kg Korean radish, washed, cut into julienne 2-3 mm (approx. 1/2 large radish)
  • 5 Tbsp Korean red chili powder
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced finely
  • 1 1/4 tsp anchovy fish sauce 액젓
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt (to taste)
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated finely
  • 1 large green onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp fermented shrimp (새우젓) (optional)

1.  In a big bowl, start with the cut radish sticks and sprinkle sugar.  Then toss in the rest of the ingredients, and mix well with hands.

2.  Let it sit for about 30 minutes.  The salt and sugar will draw moisture from the radish and create a red kimchi water.  Taste, and adjust any seasoning. Store in a glass jar or glass tupperware in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.

3.  When serving, spoon over some vinegar and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds.