Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dried Radish Side Dish (무말랭이)

Moo-mahl-leng-ee, 무말랭이, is one of my favorite side dishes of all time and the last time I ate it was probably more than 6 or 7 years ago. My mom would make this every so often and my sister and I would go nuts. There isn't anything particularly special about the flavors in this dish, because Korean cuisine reuses so many of the same flavors over and over (though, I guess most cuisines do that) but the texture of the dried and rehydrated radish is probably what makes this dish yummy to me. I've mentioned this countless times but texture is a HUGE part of what I enjoy about eating.

Most of the time, we would dry our own radishes (daikon radish, not those little red bulby ones). My mom or grandma would cut them into small sticks (probably 1/4" x 1/4" x 2") and then it would be me and my sister's job to string them together, using needle and thread - kind of like homemade Christmas garland made with popcorn or cranberries - and then make sure they were evenly spaced apart. Then, my dad would take the strings of radish and hang them up in our boiler room where they would stay for a few weeks until they were dried up. Then, we'd have to take them off the strings and they'd get stored in zip-top bags or tupperware and then get used throughout the year.

These days, I personally don't have time to do all that drying myself. Thankfully, Korean grocery stores sell the radish already dried for you. Yay for shortcuts!

Ingredients:
2 cups dried radish
3 tablespoons hot pepper flakes (more or less depending on how spicy you like your food)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (which is 2 or 3 cloves)
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 scallions, finely chopped
sesame seeds for garnish
Here's what the dried radish looks like, shriveled and sad.

Start by putting the radish in a bowl and adding enough water to submerge all of the pieces (though, they do float so you'll have to stir them around a bit. Let them soak for 30 to 45 minutes, draining and replacing the water every 10 to 15 minutes. You know you're done when all of the pieces look plump and rehydrated.
While the radish is soaking, chop up the scallions and mince the garlic. I used a garlic press to make sure the garlic was really finely cut up.
Next, take the radish in small handfuls and squeeze out as much water as you can. Use a cheesecloth if you want to, but I just used my hands. Then, combine the radish in a bowl with the garlic, scallions, hot pepper flakes (start with less than you think you need because you can always add more), brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and honey - basically everything on the ingredients list except for the sesame seeds.
Then, use your (gloved) hand (mine looks super creepy in that photo) to mix everything together and really massage the seasonings into the radish. You could use tongs or chopsticks or something, but your hand is honestly the best tool for the job. Once it's all combined, give it a taste and add more soy sauce or hot pepper flakes or sugar, depending on what you like and think it needs.
Plate up a little of the moo (radish) to serve and store the rest in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Sprinkle with some sesame seeds to make it look presentable and enjoy with rice and whatever other banchan you have.
Here's the recipe page:

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