Danmuji - strips colored with chija (Gardenia) in the back and half-circles colored with turmeric
Danmuji (단무지) literally means sweet radish pickle, originated in Japan and instantly recognized by its bright yellow color. It's a must-ingredient for kimbap (김밥; rice rolls wrapped in seaweed), and an equally important accompaniment for jajangmyeon (짜장면; noodles with black bean sauce). Its sweet, tangy, bright flavor along with refreshingly crunch bites delivered at a cheap cost make danmuji a favorite side dish in bunsik (분식; snack) places in Korea.
Although it's common to buy danmuji in packages at a grocery store, it is also as easy to make at home. The home version danmuji can be made by quick pickling, which requires pouring the boiled pickling liquid over the main ingredient, in this case, daikon radish.
While it doesn't have to be bright yellow, the color is part of its identity many people associate danmuji with. You may be lucky enough to get dried chija (치자; Gardenia jasminoides) from your area, which is dried gardenia fruit traditionally used for natural coloring as well as herbal medicine in Korea. Chija starts releasing its orange-yellow color immediately as it comes into contact with water. It'll get you the color fitted for danmuji along with slightly fragrant, earthy note in the background.
A more accessible option is adding a small amount of turmeric from your spice rack for the bright yellow color in danmuji. A hint of this exotic spice that comes through in danmuji is pleasantly refreshing.
Now that we've settled on getting the proper yellow color for danmuji, try this recipe at home. The recipe is adjustable, of course, depending on the amount of radish and your preference for sweetness. Just make sure the liquid is enough to cover the radish. Enjoy~!
1 small daikon (Japanese radish), about 2 cups, peeled
1/2 C rice vinegar
1/2 C water
1 TBSP sugar
1/4 ts salt
1 ts turmeric powder or 3-5 pieces of dried chija (치자; Gardenia jasminoides)
Optional) 1/2 ts black peppercorns
If you're making this as a convenient side dish, cut daikon into thin slices then cut in half. If you're using this mainly for a kimbap ingredient, cut in long strips.
Mix together rice vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric (or chija), and black peppercorns. Bring the liquid up to a boil, then pour it over daikon slices.
Cool danmuji to room temperature, then place it in an airtight container. If you want to expedite its pickling, leave it out at room temperature overnight. It should be ready to eat the next day. Store danmuji in the refrigerator. The color will continue to deepen for the next few days.
turmeric 강황 (gang hwang)
black peppercorns 통후추 (tong hu chu)