If, like me, you’re a fan of the Vietnamese sandwich báhn mi (vegan, of course), then this fermented radish and carrot is a great alternative to the usual pickled condiment that goes into it. I also like having this ferment on standby in my fridge for those days when I feel like having a sandwich for lunch or when I indulge in rich savory dishes or deep-fried food as a way to cut the fat (and cue in some much-needed feelings of virtue).
The traditional Vietnamese đồ chua is usually made mostly with daikon radish, with the carrot strips added for color. Like pickling, the fermentation process also adds sourness that tempers the pungency and bite of the daikon. Unlike pickles, which use sugar, this fermented version relies on the carrots to add a mild sweetness. (Here’s our 101 on ferments vs. pickles.)
But first, a warning
Radish smells sulfurous. This is characteristic of vegetables in the brassica family, which include cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli, “owing to the breakdown of sulfur-containing phytochemicals called glucosinolates.” The first time you open your jar, it will be especially pungent (I’ll be honest–“farty” is the word that’s always used to describe it). If you live with other people who have sensitive noses, it’s best to open the jar outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
But don’t worry–the smell does not translate to flavor (unless something went off with your ferment). To test your ferment, rinse a piece of daikon or carrot with drinking water and taste it. It should have the tanginess and crunch characteristic of lactic fermentation.
- 1 daikon radish
- 1 to 2 carrots
1. Wash the vegetables thoroughly and trim off the tops. Set these aside.
2. Peel the vegetables using a vegetable peeler or a knife. Take note of the weight of the peeled vegetables.
3. Using the largest holes of the box grater, grate the radish and the carrot. You can also use a mandolin or a sharp knife.
4. Multiply the weight of your vegetables by 2%. This is the right amount of salt you will use.
5. Salt and firmly massage your grated vegetables until they release enough moisture to keep them submerged.
6. Using your hand or a spoon, transfer the salted vegetables and the brine into a jar. Pack it in to remove any air bubbles.
7. Add the radish and carrot tops to weigh down the vegetables then seal the jar with an airtight lid and set it on the counter. Burp daily over the next several days. Refrigerate when you like the level of sourness.
You can use this your fermented radish and carrot as a side dish to fried or grilled food. It’s also a good alternative to the pickled veg you put in banh mi (recipe, here).