Watermelon radish, or koushin daikon [紅芯大根], is a type of hitherto relatively unknown vegetable that has become increasingly popular in Japan since the early 2010s.
Traditionally, radish or daikon [大根] is a stable ingredient that often appears in miso soup and oden etc. The word “daikon” itsself is (justly or unjustly) associated with drabness, dorkiness and frumpishness. For example:
- Daikon ashi [大根足] refers to the plump, fleshy and ungainly legs of a fat woman.
- Daikon yakusha [大根役者] refers to poor, wooden actors.
- Daikon means “moron”.
Against this cultural milieu, watermelon radish has become to be associated with stylishness, trendiness and glamour. Unlike the traditional radish, watermelon radish is red inside; and whereas a radish tastes like radish, watermelon radish actually tastes like a very sweet watermelon, except it is crispier.
The best food I have ever had in Japan was raw watermelon radish served as part of the salad bar in a restaurant called Miyama Kitchen [美山キッチン] in Osaka. It was delicious as it was even without any dressing. The vegetables in the salad bar were sourced from an organic farm called Kitai Nouson [北井農村], and the salad bar was all-you-can-eat. What’s more – among the many kinds of salad dressing they offer, there is a newly invented type of dressing made from euglena [ユーグライナ], a green single-cell organism that is said to be the world’s next superfood (as well as a future fuel source).
Euglena is nicknamed “green bug” [ミドリムシ] in Japan. It has been gaining popularity in domestically but it is still relatively unknown in other countries. Already there are euglena miso soup, euglena seaweed soup, euglena biscuits, euglena candies, euglena chips and so on. I have not tried them all, but euglena salad dressing is at the moment my favorite salad dressing. You can read upon the amazing story behind the fast-growing Japanese company that commercialized euglena here.