Wednesday, May 1, 2013

No Carrot in Carrot Cake

Daikon, or white radish is Raphanus sativus var longipinnatus, a mild-flavoured, very large, white East Asian radish with a wide variety.

Radish, Raphanus sativus, is its European counterpart.  Radishes too have numerous varieties, mostly red.


The name ‘daikon’ derives from the Japanese大根, meaning ‘large root’.  Despite its Japanese-associated name, it was originated from continental Asia.

The Chinese called it 蘿蔔luóbó’ (Cantonese) or 菜头càitóu’ (Hokkien), literally mean ‘vegetable head’.  However, both the name 蘿蔔and 菜头 also referred to carrot, thus create some confusion between daikon and carrot.  To clear the air, daikon is differentiated by calling it 白蘿蔔 ‘white luóbó’ or 白菜头 ‘white càitóu’ ;  while carrot is 紅蘿蔔‘red luóbó’ or 紅菜头‘red càitóu’. 

Nevertheless, carrot is not related to daikon.   Carrot is the root of Daucus carota, a member of Apiaceae family; while daikon is of Brassicaceae family.

The Malay name ‘lobak’ is apparently derived from Chinese ‘luóbó’.

In English, it is generally called white radish, Oriental radish, Japanese radish, Chinese radish, or Korean radish.

Culinary use

In Chinese cuisine,  蘿蔔糕luóbó-gāo or  菜头馃càitóu-guǒ’ is made with daikon.  
( Yet still,  蘿蔔糕 or  菜头馃 is erroneously called ‘carrot cake’.  So, don’t complaint if you can’t find carrot in your ‘carrot cake’. ) 

It is also made into 菜脯, a pickled daikon.  Other than that, it is most commonly eaten cooked in soup or stewed.


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