Korean radish is a variety of crunchy white radish, also known as the Joseon radish. The Korean language uses the word “Mu” to refer to white radishes, and especially Joseon.
Korean farmers started growing this crop in around 60 BC. It grows in finely raked soil at cooler temperatures, which means it is perfect for Korea’s winter climate. This means it has a close connection with the rich food culture of Korea.
This delicious and nutritious ingredient is essential to use for anyone wishing to master the art of East Asian cooking. In this article, we explain to you all you need to know about this rare radish and what you can do with it.
Is Mu the Same as Chinese Radish, Japanese Radish (Daikon)?
Korean radish is similar in flavour and appearance to daikon (Japanese radish), but Mu is usually shorter and rounder. It’s even slightly greener at the top than daikon, which is white all the way around. It has a denser texture and a better taste than daikon.
This vegetable can be found at most major Asian grocery stores. However, in case you cannot find it, you can substitute it with Daikon or Western Radish.
Although it will taste similar, this Korean variant has a special, slightly spicy flavour. This can be replicated with a small sprinkling of black pepper. Thus, most recipes teaching you how to cook pickled Korean radish can also be cooked with other types of vegetables.
The health and storage information provided below, however, applies to Mu only, not to any other variety of radish.
Calorie Count and Health Benefits
The best Mu is slightly sweet instead of bitter. It can be distinguished by its stiff green leaves, dense roots, and lack of root hair. Like most fresh vegetables, Mu is a healthy addition to any diet.
100 grams of Mu contains only 18 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrates. Any serving of Mu contains 0.01% dietary fibre, making it rich in roughage. The vegetable also contains a large amount of potassium and Vitamin C.
Thus, Mu is a perfectly healthy ingredient to cook with.
Since half a cup of pickled Korean radish contains 15% of the daily required Vitamin C intake, consumption should not exceed 4.5 cups per day.
Storage Methods of Mu
This radish should be stored, unwashed, in a cold spot covered in newspaper. Keep it in the fridge if your house is wet. Keep in mind that if it gets too cold, the texture will become spongy.
By washing, peeling, chopping, and wrapping the ingredient securely in a bag, you can freeze it. But bear in mind that frozen radish should be used in soups because it becomes very soft after defrosting.
Since you already know where to buy Korean radish, keep in mind that storing it is just as important. Any dullness in colour or softness in texture are indicators that the vegetable has gone bad and should be discarded.
How to Eat Mu
Mu can be eaten raw (in salads, sandwiches, or as a garnish), boiled in soups, cooked in stews or baked in casseroles, or even pickled.
It pairs well with almost any flavour, but especially with spicy, tangy, or contrasting sweet ones.
Some common ingredients combined with Mu are sugar, garlic, and chilli. If using a different variety of radish, add black pepper.
Recipes Utilizing Mu
Here is a list of Korean radish recipes, as well as the ingredients they contain.
- Spicy Radish Salad: A raw preparation, containing fish sauce, Thai chilli (or chilli flakes), garlic, and sugar (both brown or white works equally well).
- Mu Kimchi: Pickled green onion and Mu, with a kimchi base which may contain onions, garlic, some sweet addition like apples or sugar, fish sauce, rice flour, and ginger.
- Mu Soup: May contain beef, pork, or chicken as a protein. Common additions include Korean soup soy sauce or guk ganjang (not to be confused with regular soy sauce but can be substituted with fish sauce), sesame oil, garlic, and salt and pepper.
Now that you are aware of the versatility of this ingredient, here is our favourite recipe!
How To Prepare Pickled Korean Radish
The most authentic and common way of preparing Mu is by pickling it. This pickle is customarily added as a side dish to soups and salads. It can be used as a source of tartness on sandwiches in place of the usual gherkin pickles.
It can even be used in non-traditional ways such as in ramen or as a topping for falafel. The world is your oyster with this simple yet adaptable side.
Oh, and did we mention? It goes great with oysters on toast too!
Pickled Korean Radish Recipe
- A large airtight container not made of metal or a Ziploc/vacuum-seal plastic bag
- A wooden spoon (for mixing)
- 4 cups Korean radish
- ⅓ cup white vinegar
- ⅓ cup white sugar
- 1¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sriracha Optional
- 1.5 tbsp chilli flakes Optional
- Wash the korean radish. Peel and cut the radish into half-inch pieces. Exact cubes are not required. If using some other radish in place of Mu, season each of the cut surfaces with black pepper.
- In a ziplock bag or airtight plastic container, mix together the vinegar, sugar, and salt. If making a spicy pickle, add the sriracha or chilli flakes now (not both, or the spice will be overwhelming). If all the sugar does not dissolve, don’t worry. The water from the radish will dissolve the rest.
- Add the radish to the pickling liquid. Seal the container or bag to prevent oxidation from contact with air. This will greatly affect the taste and texture of the pickle, so be careful!
- Open the container to stir the liquid every half hour to encourage moisture loss from the Korean radish. Flip this if you're using a bag. After stirring/flipping 4 times, you are free to leave it unattended overnight in the refrigerator. Serve chilled and enjoy!
If you would like, you may also watch to LesEatGood’s Youtube video as reference on how to make the above pickled dish!
Additional Notes on Ingredients
- Distilled plain white vinegar is the best option to allow the flavours of the vegetable to shine through. You can substitute it with rice wine vinegar if needed. Do not substitute with any other type of vinegar as it will mask the delicate taste of the fresh produce.
- Use white sugar. Brown sugar contains more molasses, which will make the pickle excessively sweet.
- The amount of salt can be adjusted more or less according to taste, but 1.25 teaspoons of salt as per the recipe is the minimum amount of salt required to turn this vinegar solution into a true pickling liquid.
- Instead of using salt, you may also opt to replace it with MSG (monosodium glutamate). It is not traditional, but we love using instead of salt for its addicting zingy flavour.
- A Korean Radish substitute is Daikon, but be sure to add a little sprinkle of black pepper to imitate the slightly spicy kick of fresh Mu.
Variation To The Recipe
- Although some recipes call for an equal amount of water and vinegar, the radishes will lose moisture themselves through osmosis. This is why we have omitted the water. However, in case your radishes are dull and soft (i.e. they are old and not so fresh), add about 2 teaspoons of water for every cup of radish. This will compensate for the moisture which will not be lost in the case of old produce.
- You can also add some fresh green onions if you have less than 4 cups of Korean radishes.
- The proportions of the pickling liquid can be adjusted to fit the number of fresh Mu which you would like to pickle.
- Do not try to use this pickling liquid recipe with other vegetables as it will not work. Each vegetable has a specific flavour profile as well as the level of hydration and firmness of texture. Pickling liquid recipes cannot be used interchangeably.
How to Store The Pickled Mu
We would emphasise the importance of knowing how to properly store the completed pickles. Traditionally, pickled Korean radish is served cold.
This custom notwithstanding, there is a very specific way to store pickles in jars at room temperature, which is not covered here. This quick pickle does not make a long-lasting product and as such cannot be kept the same way as a store-bought pickle.
Keep this refrigerated and discard it if it lasts longer than a month.
Whether you’re a budding cook or an accomplished food artist, Mu is the perfect addition to your culinary arsenal. In this article, we have covered everything you need to know about this Korean vegetable.
This includes nutrition information, flavour profiles, and preparations in which you can utilize it. One of our pickled Korean radish recipes is also included in this article. This simple and easy pickled Mu recipe is sure to sate your tastebuds.
We hope that this article introduced you to a new and exciting vegetable and a gateway to many unique recipes. Perhaps we even served as your first foray into Korean cuisine! Bon appetit!
Are you looking for another Asian ingredient to try cooking?
Check out our guide on bamboo shoots, another nutritious yet delicious vegetable to try cooking at home!