Grated Karami ‘Hot’ Daikon Radish and Soba 辛味大根
Itadakimono: A few days ago I was given a large bunch of karami daikon by Iron Chef Defeater, Yoshimi Tanigawa, the owner and chef of Kichisen. Karami daikon is generally quite small and is grated and eaten with soba noodles. It is hot and bitter, a little goes a long way.
Karami literally means ‘hot taste’ in Japanese. Karami daikon is hot like wasabi or horse radish, not spicy hot like chili pepper.
Grated Karami Daikon on Soba
Karami daikon can usually be found in higher-end grocery stores but it is rather rare. I don’t think I have ever seen it in a reasonably priced soba restaurant. I have only had it at a monthly soba making gathering of fellow soba connoisseurs and at Kichisen.
Wasabi is commonly served with soba but I prefer karami daikon as daikon seems more suited to soba and dashi to me.
Karami daikon is simply grated and a small bit is placed on top of the soba, usually with chopped scallions. Grated daikon, very commonly served with grilled fish in Japan, has a good deal of water content, karami daikon has very little, after grating, no water gathers at the bottom of the plate or bowl, as happens with daikon.
If you cannot get karami daikon but want to try something similar, the very top of a regular daikon, the ‘neck’, especially if it is green can be quite hot and bitter. (Not always though.) Just grate that and squeeze out the water content.
Karami daikon comes in several sizes, all small, these were the smallest that I have seen, they were about the size of a ping pong ball.
Fresh and Peeled Karami Daikon
Peeled Karami Daikon Radishes – Detail
I peeled mine before grating, but some people simply wash it and grate. Unpeeled is said to be hotter. The hot ‘karami’ will lessen with time, so it should be grated right before eating. You can grate it while the soba boils.
Karami Daikon and Scallions
Peeled Karami Daikon
Grated Karami Daikon
Notice there is little water content in karami daikon.
Fresh ‘Nama’ Soba
‘Nama’ means fresh, or raw in Japanese. This type of high quality, undried soba can be found in most grocery stores and is worth paying an extra 100 yen or so for. This soba is quite thick, country-style rather than Kyoto-style.
Grated Karami Daikon and Chopped Scallions on Soba – Served
This amount is actually quite a bit. Don’t start out with too much, you can always add more. You want to be sure to stir it into the dashi well before eating, however, mixing too much is not cool in Japanese culinary culture.
Grated Karami Daikon and Chopped Scallions on Soba – Detail
Allyl isothiocyanate is the compound that makes karami daikon (raphanus sativum), hot, hot, hot!