Would you like to make pretty flowers using radish (or turnip)? You can make edible flowers out of them and it’s quite easy to do. Finely slice radish in a grid leaving the bottom intact and just marinate in sweet vinegar marinade. Pickled Chrysanthemum Radish is a great garnish for grilled fish or sautéed meat, and also a great side dish – even for a bento box.
Origin of Pickled Chrysanthemum Radish
Today’s dish is a variation of the Japanese dish called Kikka Kabu (菊花かぶ), which uses turnips (see the photo below). The Japanese name translates to chrysanthemum flower (kikka, 菊花) turnip (kabu, かぶ) as the turnip looks just like a white chrysanthemum flower.
OK, let’s be honest here. It doesn’t have to be called chrysanthemum flowers. It could be any other flowers with many white petals such as dahlia or daisy.
But the Japanese picked chrysanthemum since it is a significant flower in Japan. Although Japan does not have an official national flower, chrysanthemum is a symbol of the country itself as the monarchy is referred to as the Chrysanthemum Throne and chrysanthemum is used for the imperial seal.
I occasionally make kikka kabu but you are meant to use very small turnips (about 5cm/2” in diameter at most). They are readily available in Japan but unfortunately where I live, the majority of turnips are very large, about twice as wide in diameter as those in Japan.
So, I tried kikka kabu with radish instead and they were a great success, transforming to red chrysanthemum flowers!
It’s not turnip (kabu) so I would have to call it kikka radisshu (菊花ラディッシュ) – yes, Japanese people say radish in almost the same way as English speakers because it is a foreign vegetable. Hence the name is written in katakana, instead of hiragana or kanjicharacters.
Throughout this post and recipes, I added notes on how to make chrysanthemum turnips (Kikka Kabu) as well for those who can find small turnips.
MAKE CHRYSANTHEMUM FLOWERS with Radish
You need to have a little bit of patience and meticulousness but it is worth the effort when you see the results.
- Cut the leafy end of the radish (or turnip) so that it can sit steadily with the cut side down. If the tip of the radish has a long tail, cut it off.
- Make criss-cross incisions on the turnip at 2mm intervals but do not cut all the way through.
- Place the radish pieces in salty water for 20 minutes to soften them.
When you squeeze the water out of the radishes, you will see the resemblance to flowers.
TRICKS TO MAKING FINE CRISS-CROSSES
Leaving a small amount of radish intact at the bottom while slicing it thinly is a tricky job, but you can use bamboo skewers to make it easier. See the photo below.
- Place two bamboo skewers on a cutting board. If you are concerned about the skewers rolling everywhere, place two rubber bands around the cutting board to secure the bamboo skewers (see how I secured chopsticks when criss-crossing turnip in the photo below).
- Place a radish between the skewers.
- Slice the radish from one end to the other to 2mm thick, perpendicular to the skewers so that the knife stops without cutting the radish all the way through.
- Turn the radish 90 degrees, hold the sliced ends with your thumb and index finger tightly, then slice it in the same way. If you don’t hold the sliced ends, you will not be able to cut them properly.
While slicing both ends of the radish, you can’t rely on the skewers as the knife reaches the bottom before hitting them. So, you need to judge where to stop cutting. After a couple of slices, you should be OK to cut through until the knife hits the skewers.
If you are making chrysanthemum flowers with turnips, use a pair of chopsticks instead of bamboo skewers.
MARINADE FOR PICKLED CHRYSANTHEMUM RADISH
You could use a simple sweet vinegar called Amazu, which consists of just vinegar and sugar with a dash of salt.
But for today’s dish, I added dashi stock to the Amazu. By adding dashi stock, the sharp acidity from the vinegar becomes milder.
I used dashi stock made from bonito flakes but you can use konbu dashi stock to make it vegetarian. The recipes for different types of dashi stocks can be found in Varieties of Dashi Stock.
You only need to marinate the radishes for 30 minutes.
You can marinate them longer or even overnight but then the red colour from the skin gradually fades, making the marinade pinkish. As a result of this, the white part of the radish becomes pinkish, too.
I once forgot to take out the marinated radishes and left them in the fridge overnight. They turned into pink chrysanthemum flowers but the flavour was the same or slightly more intense.
If you are making Kikka Kabu with turnips, marinate them overnight.
Pickled Chrysanthemum Radish as well as Pickled Chrysanthemum Turnip (Kikka Kabu) can keep for a week in fridge. It is handy to have them when you need something to add to the dinner plate. It is also a perfect dish for a bento box to fill a small space.
P.S. Don’t forget to see the section ‘MEAL IDEAS’ below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and the new recipe in this post that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
Finely slice radish in a grid leaving the bottom intact and just marinate in sweet vinegar marinade. Pickled Chrysanthemum Radish is a great garnish for grilled fish or sautéed meat and it’s also a great side dish - even for a bento box. I have included the ingredients and steps to make Pickled Chrysanthemum Turnip (Kikka Kabu) as well.
Total Time does not include the time to soak the vegetables in salty water or marinating time, both of which are included in Custom Time.
Custom Time is based on the time to marinate radishes. If using turnips, Custom Time becomes 8 hours 20 minutes.
- 300 ml water
- ½ tbsp salt
- 1 bunch of radish (note 1)
- Lemon rind cut into small squares (one per radish, note 1)
- 3 turnips (about 250g, note 2)
- ½ red chilli , deseeded and chopped thinly into rings
- 100 ml dashi stock (note 3)
- 100 ml vinegar
- 3 tbsp sugar
Add salt to 300ml water in a bowl or a zip lock bag and mix well to dissolve.
Cut the leafy end of radish/turnip to make it flat so that the radish can sit steadily, cut side down. If there is a long root attached to the radish, trim it.
Slice turnip vertically at 2mm thick intervals from one end to the other, leaving 5mm (a bit less for radish if possible) uncut at the bottom (see note 4 for tricks).
Turn the radish/turnip 90 degrees, then slice it in the same way (note 5).
Place the turnips/radishes in the salty water for 20 minutes.
Mix the Amazu Marinade ingredients well until sugar dissolves.
Squeeze water out of each radish/turnip as much as possible and transfer them into a zip lock bag. Add the Amazu Marinade to the bag.
Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible. If using radish, marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes (note 6). Marinate overnight if using turnip.
To serve, squeeze marinade out of the radish/turnip, spread the tips of the surface to make it look like chrysanthemum petals. Place it with the connected side at the bottom with a piece of lemon/chilli slice in the centre.
1. There were 8 radishes in my bunch. Try to buy a bunch with similar size radishes. The number of lemon rind pieces depends on how many radishes you have.
2. I used 3 turnips - two that weighed 95g and one 50g. The large turnips are cut into quarters after making criss-crosses. Make a cross incision at the bottom, then place the both thumbs in the incision to break it into quarters.
3. Use Konbu Dashi to make the dish vegetarian.
4. Place bamboo skewers (or two chopsticks for turnips) on a cutting board. If you want, place two rubber bands around the cutting board to secure skewers/chopsticks. Then place a radish/turnip between them (see step-by-step photos in post).
While slicing both ends of the radish, you can’t rely on the skewers as the knife reaches the bottom of the radish before hitting the skewers/chopsticks. You need to judge where to stop cutting. After a couple of slices, you should be OK to cut through until the knife hits the skewers/chopsticks.
5. Hold the sliced ends with your thumb and index finger tightly, then slice it in the same way. If you don't hold the sliced ends, you will not be able to cut them properly.
6. You can marinate the radish longer than 30 minutes, even overnight. However, the colour of the radish starts fading and stains the marinade resulting in the white part of the radish turning pink. Although the distinction between the red and white colours is lost, I think the pinkish chrysanthemum radish is also pretty.