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What Is a Korean Radish?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 16, 2024
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A Korean radish is a type of Asian vegetable used in many Asian dishes, but perhaps most prominently in those in Korean cuisine. The vegetable is a member of the daikon family of radishes, and is usually distinguished by its rounded, oblong shape. Korean radishes usually resembles potatoes, while most other daikon varieties look more like thick carrots. Cooks can prepare the Korean varietals raw, cooked, or pickled. Dishes as diverse as soups, dressings, and savory puddings can all incorporate elements of the vegetable.

Like all members of the daikon family, the Korean radish is native to East Asia. It is cultivated most commonly as a crop on the Korean peninsula, which is where it derives its common name. The vegetable is frequently sold as lo bok, particularly within Asia.

Lo bok has a thick peel that is typically striated, beginning as light green at the stem end but transitioning to a creamy white at the root. It grows underground as a tuber, and is generally harvested in the spring and early summer months. Selective gardening has led to a number of Korean radish hybrids capable of year-round harvest, however, and greenhouse growth also yields more continuous crop seasons. The radish’s popularity in many aspects of Korean cooking typically produces a constant demand. As a result, the radish is commercially farmed throughout Korea and in several places in China.

There are many ways of preparing Korean radish, though kimchi is among the most popular. Kimchi, sometimes also written kimchee, is a spicy, pickled dressing that can be made with a range of different vegetables. The natural back heat and spicy finish of the Korean radish makes it well suited for inclusion. Radish kimchi usually involves small chunks or strips of peeled radish that has been left to steep in a peppery brine for a number of days or weeks. The finished product can be sealed and stored for years as a preserve.

Korean radishes can also be added to soups and stews to lend substance. The radish is made mostly of water, but contains a number of useful fibers and starches as well. Adding radish chunks can make even the most basic broths more substantial and nutritionally significant, and pureeing the vegetable can add texture and character.

The radish is also commonly eaten raw. The peel is normally removed before raw consumption, as it tends to be quite bitter. Grated radish can be added to yogurt to create something of an all-purpose pudding or thick dressing to accompany a variety of dishes. Thin slices can also be served on salads, or even eaten as a snack, usually with a bit of salt.

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Discussion Comments
By ZipLine — On Dec 25, 2014

We are Korean and my mom makes a great Korean radish soup in fall and winter. These days, this radish is available during other seasons as well, but it's best eaten in winter because it tastes the best then. I think that Koran radish in winter is the crunchiest an juiciest radish I've ever had. And it's also full of fiber and vitamins, so it's a superfood for winter. I try to have my mom's beef and radish soon often in the winter for this reason. It's also very comforting, especially in cold and rainy weather.

By bluedolphin — On Dec 25, 2014

@stoneMason-- I've only had Korean radish as kimchee but as far as I know, this radish is much different than the typical radish we get at the grocery store. It's larger and has a milder flavor. That's why it's possible to use it as a vegetable in meals. I've never seen anyone cook with American red radishes. Our radishes have a far stronger, spicier taste. So we usually eat them raw, as part of salads.

I highly recommend not substituting this radish with anything else. If you do have to substitute, you could probably use another variety of daikon radishes. I think they're similar enough. Just don't substitute with the red radish.

By stoneMason — On Dec 24, 2014

I have a recipe that calls for Korean radish and I don't have it. Can I substitute regular radish for it or will the dish turn out really strange?

If I can't substitute regular radish, I will have to wait to cook the recipe another time. I don't even know if my Asian supermarket carries Korean radish though.

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