I pondered a name for this, I really did. But I couldn't decide if it was a relish or a pickle or a salad. All I know is that it's very, very crunchy and very, very yummy. Those of you who don't eat your vegetables, just move on. Nothing to see here....
This came about from two things. First, my parents went to a restaurant and on every table there was a dish of this relish/pickle/salad composed of daikon and cabbage and other things, made fresh every day. My mother enjoyed it so much that she came home and promptly made her own batch, with a little innovation for not having any celery in the house. It probably helped that we have a small stockpile of the sweetest white cabbages I've ever tasted. They came from a local farm and are crisp yet tender and unbelievably delicious.
Moving right along, it is also winter. And winter came early this year for us. We're into our third real snow, and first truly significant one of the year. There's 8.3 inches of new snow on the ground when we usually don't see significant accumulation until the new year. It's cold, and when I think about my usual salads I shiver a bit. There's something about chilled Romaine lettuce with tomatoes and sweet onions that makes me cold just thinking about it. It's as if I can't consider anything that refreshing. This relish/pickle/salad just doesn't give me the same vibe. Perhaps the spicy kick of chili paste cancels it out. Or perhaps because it uses winter happy vegetables. No matter the reason, I've been eating a lot of this lately.
So, what exactly goes in this? Well, really any hardy, crunchy vegetable which you can eat raw. Our has 1cm. cubed daikon, chopped cabbage and carrots, and a strange dried Chinese vegetable I don't know the name for but manages to be both very crunchy and limp after being reconstituted. The original had chopped celery. Lots of other vegetables would work, including raw cauliflower. Look around for strongly flavored, robust vegetables with good crunch which are easy to find in the winter. Often, they will also be less expensive and in better condition than out of season produce shipped from a continent away. Chopping rather than shredding the vegetables emphasizes their crunchy texture and also preserves the crunch longer as they have less surface area and fewer torn cells.
What dresses these veggies? A scoop (to taste) of whatever chili paste you've got on hand. My mother made her own wickedly hot sauce by pounding chilis with salt and some other stuff and packing it into bottles; it makes this dish powerfully spicy. You can use a commercial brand, though, and adjust the heat to your preferences. Then, a bit of soy sauce to thin down the chili paste, not too much as the vegetables will start to seep juices and the whole thing will get too wet. A bit of sesame oil, chili oil, or a mild flavored oil if you like. If you have some on hand, a bit of fresh coriander is good too. Just toss it all together and adjust it until it's yummy.
Let it sit for a little while before eating, just to let the flavors soak in; 15 minutes is fine. It's a good accompaniment to all sorts of things depending on how hot you make it, or can serve as a vegetable dish in its own right if it's relatively mild. It will become more pickle-like the longer it sits as the salt pulls the moisture out of the vegetables. It really is best the first day, but will keep several if you don't mind the texture change.
Meanwhile, all the components are so pungently flavored, there's the whole realm of using it as a salad dressing itself. Hm, salad dressed with salad.... Tonight, I cut up enough of that same lovely sweet cabbage to fill a salad bowl, tossed some of the crunchy yummy mixture on top, added an extra optional drop of oil and voila salad. I then added a condiment called "crispy fish" which is tiny dried anchovies fried in hot oil with preserved soy beans, but that's optional too. Somehow I don't see the vast majority of noders seeking the joys of spicy anchovy fry in their next grocery adventure. Still, the extra salty richness of the fish was a great counterpoint to the heat from the seasoned vegetables and the sweetness of the cabbage. Salt cured anchovies, either rinsed and patted dry or oil packed, would work as well if chopped up, and any number of different things would go well with this robust mixture. If the joys of tiny fish do not appeal, how about shredding some leftover roast or poached chicken or slicing up some cold roast beef or leftover chops? Any number of things can turn this into a full blown meal in a bowl.