Daikon & Ninjin Sunomono (Japanese Radish & Carrot Salad) | Oshogatsu Food (Japanese New Year)

If you’ve been reading my blog the past few weeks, the good news is that my ‘foodie funk’ got a good kick in the tush this past week. The bad news is that even though I’m back to cooking more than just tacos, the more dishes I cook, the further behind I’ll be on my food posts and I’m already quite behind. I know what you’re all thinking…

My problem could easily be solved if I just posted more than one item per week! Lately, that hasn’t been very easy for me. I’m still working on Bebe E’s album (I just completed her 7 month old photos – – – yay for progress!) and what little downtime I have is spent on family, domestic responsibilities, and much needed rest and SLEEP. Priorities, priorities! We’ve also been more social than usual given the summer season and I must admit to being tired from too much ‘play time’. Yesterday we were breaking in one of the WLA girls’ new pool and we had a great time watching all the kids and little babies enjoy the water. If you’re reading this, thanks, Pocahontas and Mr. Pocahontas for having us over, and also for the lovely garden tour! :)

Anyway, when I cooked for our friend last week, I realized that my foodie funk dissipates when I cook comfort food, which is basically anything Japanese. Japanese food brings out my foodie groove. (Does that sound dorky, or what?) Thank you, Mrs. Sensei for motivating me! 

A good friend of ours happened to be visiting from Japan and joined us at a party last weekend. She is a native to the states but resides in Japan and we’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to see her at least once per year. The family made plans to have lunch with her last Tuesday and when we asked her what she would like to eat, she surprised me by telling me that she enjoys my blog and that she would like to cook with me and/or watch me cook.

Yikes! Seriously?!?

At first my foodie funk got the better of me and I quickly replied with, “Oh… I haven’t been cooking much since it’s summer. Why don’t we go out for lunch?” But I quickly got over it (kind of) as flattery took over. I am thrilled that she reads my blog and that she wanted me to cook for her. However, I must confess that the ‘foodie funk’ in me rapidly went through my mental cookbook to find something that I could make that was quick and easy, but of course, tasty too! I decided to make soboro donburi (post forthcoming).

I’d been craving my mom’s daikon (Japanese radish) and ninjin (carrot) sunomono and planned to make this for myself anyway, but I thought this would be a good side dish for our soboro donburi. I usually wait for my mom to make this and then take just a little bit home with me after a visit with my parents. (Yes, I am spoiled in this way.) One of the reasons why I don’t care to make this salad myself is because daikon is quite large and since I’m the only person in my house that eats this, even if I use only half the daikon (which is what I did in the recipe below) it is still too much for me. The other thing is that it’s not a dish that you want to keep in your fridge for too long. If you’re experienced with daikon, you are probably only too familiar with it’s strong, overpowering radish-odor. Despite the fact that this sunomono is quite good (to me) it has a very strong smell that might be difficult for some to overcome. Bebe Dada is one of them. He won’t even try one bite of this sunomono, strictly because of the way it smells. That’s how overpowering this dish is. Scared yet?!? Mrs. Sensei was brave and tried it. :)

The one thing that I learned about daikon when I was growing up, was that each one tastes different. My parents always served raw grated daikon on the side with our grilled fish, and sometimes the daikon was very mild and sweet, other times it was spicy, other times it had no distinct flavor or was bitter. I believe the daikon I selected for our sunomono was a bit spicy and bitter.

This sunomono is another one of my mom’s ‘no recipe’ recipes so I had to measure the ingredients as I went along to try and get the sunomono to taste just like my mom’s. The two secret ingredients to my mom’s daikon ninjin sunomono are natto konbu and sushizu.

Mom’s Daikon & Ninjin Sunomono

  • 1/2 daikon (or 2 to 3 cups thinly sliced)
  • 1 large carrot (or 1 cup thinly sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons natto kombu (prepared kelp)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons sushizu (sushi seasoning vinegar), to suite your taste
  • Juice of 1/4 to 1/2 lemon, to suite your taste
  • Splash of dashi shoyu (optional)

1. Using a mandoline on the thinnest setting (1.5 mm), slice daikon into paper thin rounds.

2) Also slice carrots using the mandoline on the 1.5 mm setting.

3) Toss sliced daikon and carrots in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt and gently toss. Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature or up to one hour in the fridge.

4) Squeeze excess water from the daikon and carrots. The vegetables will shrink a little.

5) Add natto konbu and gently toss with the daikon and ninjin. I believe this type of prepared kelp is referred to as natto konbu because of its slimy texture, similar to natto (fermented soybeans).

Close-up of the natto konbu.

6) Add sushi-zu and lemon and toss gently. Sushi-zu is a seasoned vinegar that may be used to season sushi rice or salads. I recommend adding 4 tablespoons of sushizu, and the juice of a quarter lemon and then tasting it. I prefer sunomono to have a strong vinegar flavor, so I added a little less than 6 tablespoons of sushizu and the juice of half lemon. If you like, add a splash of dashi shoyu. My mom uses Kamada Dashi Shoyu and she usually adds just a little to her daikon and ninjin sunomono, but I went without it and it tasted great. So if you don’t have any dashi shoyu on hand, go without it, and you’ll be fine.

Serve  a small portion as a side dish and enjoy! I took some of this sunomono that I made to my parent’s house yesterday and my mom complimented it! She said it tasted very good. Thank you, Mom!

Next, stay tuned for our main course, soboro donburi. Hopefully I’ll be able to get this posted sooner than later!


bebe mama


14 thoughts on “Daikon & Ninjin Sunomono (Japanese Radish & Carrot Salad) | Oshogatsu Food (Japanese New Year)

  1. Aloha, Judy!!

    Enjoyed reading your post. It’s been awhile since you posted a new one. Great job on the sunomono. Sounds like you passed Mom’s test! LOL Yokatta ne!

    You’re so lucky you have these nifty cooking gadgets! I want a mandoline from Santa this year! LOL

    Happy Cooking!!

  2. Hi Judy! I’ve been in a cooking funk too. The past few weeks I’ve been out of town every weekend with a bunch of stuff going on during the week so I just haven’t had the time or energy to do any cooking when I’m at home. Wah! i can’t wait until things settle down so I can get back in the kitchen. So glad you’ve made it back! :):):)

  3. Judy this is gorgeous! I have never had this salad, but I bet I would love being the Japanese food junkie that I am :) I have had daikon shredded with dishes a few times, and I enjoyed but remember it being a bit sweet. I have know idea though if it was slightly prepared or not ? Any way I liked it, and I know I would love this salad :)

    • Hi Alisha, Thank you! I know the exact shredded daikon dish you are referring to and I will post it at some point in the future. My mom makes it once in a while and it is sweeter than most other sunomomo as that is the traditional way it is prepared but it can definitely be made with less sugar to suite your palate.

  4. Judy, this recipe looks so great. I’ll definitely try it. I’ve made other daikon sunomono but I do different shapes. Using a mandoline to getting the paper thin slices sounds wonderful. And I’ve never tried to natto kombu before — interesting.

    My husband also won’t go near daikon much less pickled daikon. He says it smells like one “giant fart”.

    But it tastes SO good with rice!!

    • Hi Melissa, Thanks! Oh wow… I bet you make carrot flowers, don’t you?!? :) Yes, I didn’t want to include flatulance in my post but that’s basically what he says. Other times, if he doesn’t know that it’s on the table or in the fridge, he might ask if I checked the baby’s diaper. Ug! ;}

  5. Yay, so glad you’re out of your cooking funk! It’s so hard to make time for everything you have to do in a day, right? I think that when you “have” to cook, a little bit of the fun is taken away from the experience and even harder to blog about it. If cooking Japanese will keep you out of it, by all means, post away. I’m learning a lot about Japanese food here.

    I would enjoy this salad, but then again, I like daikon radishes. I know what you mean about the smell in the fridge, though. This is reminding me to finally get a mandoline–been meaning to for years but never get around to it. Looks great!

  6. Judy – This looks so good, and I love sunomono. I use Japanese daikon and Korean radish(which is similar to daikon) quite often but never knew or thought that they have offensive smell, until they are made into kimchi. (ha ha) I can buy natto kombu to make this dish, but can I just substitute rice vinegar for sushizu? Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • Hi Hyosun, I love kimchi, and I don’t find the smell offensive. :) You can substitute rice vinegar for the sushizu but the sushizu has just a hint of salt and additional savory flavors, so you might need to add extra salt if you make this. I also think the rice vinegar might have a sharper vinegarette taste over the sushizu which is a bit more mild so it might not taste the same but I think it will still taste really good. :)

  7. Hi, Judy – This looks so crisp and refreshing. Your posts are teaching me about Japanese foods – even though my mom is Japanese, she only made a few dishes, I think it was because you couldn’t get the ingredients where we were and my dad was an English meat & potatoes guy. I wish I wasn’t afraid to use a mandoline – what kind do you have?

    • HI Priscilla, I didn’t know you are half-Japanese! :) Thanks for the compliment. It always makes me feel good if I’ve been able to share a bit of my culture and my mom’s Japanese home-cooking with a friend. I have an Oxo mandoline, but it’s white plastic and if it ever broke and I needed to replace it (I doubt it will ever break…) I would buy the stainless steel Oxo. The white plastic on the board stains if you use it for carrots or beets or anything else with color that bleeds. I am scared to death every time I use my mandoline but I try to be extra careful and never rush. There is an attachment that holds the vegetable and protects your hand as you cut, but once the vegetable gets smaller you either use your hand carefully, or sometimes what I do is just stop and not risk slicing my finger off. When I was a kid I sliced a small piece of my thumb off but fortunately there was no serious damage and nothing to stitch together. Just be careful! ;)

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