Still Walking opens with middle-aged daughter (Chinami) and her mother (Toshiko) in the kitchen. Peeling daikon radishes and carrots, they talk about a recipe that never shows up on screen.
T Radishes are genius.
C How about potatoes?
T With potatoes, it’s up to the cook. Radishes you can simmer or grill. They’re even delicious raw.
C You don’t grill radishes.
T Sure you do. If you simmer and then grill them, they lose their tartness. Then you mix them with carrots and saute with sesame oil.
C Sesame oil, right.
T Better write it down. You’ll forget.
C No need. I’ll never cook it. My husband grew up on fast food. He’ll eat anything.
T Then why’d you ask?
C I thought you might want to talk, Mom.
T In that case, move your hands, not your mouth. It’s almost lunchtime.
As Chinami says, “you don’t [really] grill radishes” so the imagery really stuck.
As the recipe was taken sentimentally, carrots are omitted. Instead, the daikon radish is treated like a steak. Peeled and sliced thick for a substantial bite, the rounds are soaked in a bath of starchy water taken from washing rice for the second time. This step ensures to soften the bitter taste, but sometimes it’s unnecessary depending on the season, or variety. After 10 to 20 minutes, the cuts are simmered until soft — just about when a chopstick passes through smoothly. Then they’re lightly patted to dry, and grilled. The trick is to use a lower flame and a netural oil like grapeseed to get a golden brown surface, lightly salting each side as they are flipped. Once they are evenly colored, sesame oil is drizzled on each side, sizzled briefly, then removed from heat. This way, the sesame oil retains its toasty aroma without being overpowering. The result — tender, pan-fried radish cuts.
Note, we like to add an extra sprinkle of coarse salt and cut them in half, so they can stand on their own.