When our 16-year-old son came home from spending spring break on a class trip to China, he—of course—brought back pickles. A barely fermented chili paste, strong, garlicky, and salty. And a jar of pickled turnips. The chili paste was pretty unexciting but the turnips were to die for. They were hardly brined, with a nice heat from chili and an amazing chewy texture. We immediately wanted to try to replicate it.
We decided we would use daikon, because we had a bunch around the shop, and because its size lent itself to a long, noodle-like julienne. We laid them out on a rack to dry and the next morning found small shriveled confetti. The daikon had lost so much moisture it would blow off the rack as you walked by. Not what we wanted. We tried to air dry the daikon whole before processing it. Fail. We tried several more approaches, always ending up with the same thing.
The Japanese call this Kiriboshi. We knew of Kiriboshi but had never prepared or eaten it. We kept it around while we rethought our approach. Then came lunch.
Alex decided to prepare the Kiriboshi one day for our staff meal. She soaked it in a light dashi, simmered it with hijiki, and served it with some sweet brown rice. At the first bite the light bulbs started flashing. Maybe the turnips in our favorite Chinese pickle hadn't been dehydrated to that amazing texture, perhaps they had been re-hydrated to it. Now we can start.