This last weekend I took advantage of some unclaimed vegetables to make Hawaiian style diakon pickles.  I engaged in some opportunistic pickling. Here is the back story.

Every year my sister and I volunteer to work the wonton booth at the Orange County Buddhist Church (OCBC) spring and summer festivals. These festivals follow the cultural tradition of Japanese Obon and Hanamatsuri. They are the major annual fundraising events for the temple.

Sisters at wonton booth

My sister and I working at the wonton booth. I’m the one holding a pitcher of corn starch slurry, and whisking the wonton sauce with the other hand out of frame. This is a photo of a photo taken by Harry Koike.

OCBC has been around 50 years or so, and I’ve been going there since the ‘60s. (I was very young.) Wonton has been a very popular ‘fair food’ there and one of the biggest fundraisers. My mother at one point became the wonton committee chair and remained a lead there for decades. Now, there are several of us ‘daughters of wonton makers’ carrying the torch of wonton making. It is very physical work, lifting bags and boxes of produce, pushing carts filled with wonton, carrying tubs of gu (filling), and those 35 lb containers of oil are no cake walk either. Of course, we have help. In recent years we’ve sold about 1,800 plates of wonton over the festival weekend.  In order to accomplish this, the daughters of wonton wrangle a small army of volunteers. For the labor intensive wonton stuffing/folding alone, there are minions from seniors arriving in walkers to the teenage keeping rhythm with iPod and earbuds.

The wonton making spans two days of preparation plus two days of folding, frying, and selling. On the first night we prepare vegetables along with the other food booths. For some reason the Chow Mein folks received a box of daikon radish this year. Daikon radish? There is no daikon in the chow mein. Hmmm…. Does anyone need any daikon?

I decided to take two giant daikon home to make tsukemono (pickles) for selling at the Boutique Booth where homemade items are sold. I now wish I had taken more, but with fatigue setting in, I had only confidence for making a half dozen jars.   I opted to make something easy and something that did not require fermentation or initial refrigeration. I made a Hawaiian style pickle. It’s a kind of quick pickle, yet it takes several days to develop full flavor.  These homemade pickles sold for a meager $5.00 per jar.  A fantastic buy!

Hawaiian Style Daikon Pickle

Recipe – Hawaiian Style Daikon Refrigerator Pickle

  • 5 to 6 lbs daikon
  • 1 bunch red radish
  • 1 c water
  • ¼ c Japanese vinegar
  • ¼ c sake
  • 1 c sugar
  • 3 T kosher salt
  • 2 T wakame seaweed
  • 1-2 hot peppers cut into ½ inch pieces

Cut the daikon and red radish into bite size pieces. Put them all into a large bowl. I like to slice the daikon into 1.5 inch segments and then cut each segment into little bars. I cut the red radish into 1/6th portions.  The red radish is included to give some color.  After a while the red starts to fade and go into the liquid, which gives all of the daikon a pretty light pink color.

Add the water, vinegar, sake, sugar, salt, and wakame. Toss and mix it all together with your hands. Let it stand for 1-2 hours, tossing every 20 minutes or so. The brine will become diluted by the daikon juices.

While the daikon is soaking, sterilize your jars. When the daikon is ready, place a piece of red pepper in the bottom each jar. Fill the jars with daikon and follow with the brine. Seal the jar with a sterilized lid and let it stand for a day at room temperature. Refrigerate and enjoy after 2-5 more days.

I love it when fresh wonderful vegetables like these fall into my hands.  Aside from the good eating, I like the challenge of finding the best way to use up these windfalls.  In this case, some profit was made possible for the temple from what would have otherwise been a wasted purchase.  What is your opportunistic pickling story?