Lo bok (lobok) is a form of white radish widely used in Asian cuisine. If this sounds like daikon to you, you're right. Some folks make a distinction between the two, and others don't. Some say that they're the same vegetable, differing only in their dimensions, with lo bok being shorter and stouter than the longer, slimmer daikon. Others say the difference is purely semantic. In any case, a white radish by any other name is just as good and can be treated the same way.
Where and How to Find Lo Bok
Fresh lo bok/daikon can usually be found in the produce sections of major U.S. supermarkets. Otherwise, try your local Asian specialty market. Find yourself a firm, hefty vegetable with no blemishes, cracks or splitting. A yellowed appearance indicates that it's way past its prime. The whiter the root, the fresher it is, and it can stay fresh in the fridge for about two weeks.
The Many Faces of Lo Bok
Lo bok is a large radish that lends itself to a number of configurations and cooking methods. Even the leaves can be used to make boiled greens, stir fries and soups.
Wash fresh lo bok thoroughly before use and peel away the thin top layer. Some cooks like to reduce the moisture content of the raw radish by first cutting it into whatever form the recipe calls for and then tossing it with salt. The salted lo bok is left alone until it releases water (about 30 minutes). At that point, it's ready for further preparation.
Raw lo bok is a relatively mild radish with just enough bite to make it interesting. It can be grated, diced, chopped or cut into matchsticks and used as a garnish or a crunchy addition to salads. When lo bok is cooked, it loses much of its bite but retains a mild, slightly earthy flavor.
Lo Bok Recipe for Pickled Radish
You can make a quick and easy Korean-style pickle that's ready in just 20 minutes. Slice the radish crosswise into 2-inch segments and then cut the segments in half lengthwise. Now, slice these half-moons into uniform strips. Make the pickling liquid with equal measures of sugar, salt and white (or rice) vinegar. Coat the radish strips with this liquid and leave them for 20 minutes.
That's it – they're ready. The pickled radish makes a refreshing accompaniment at summer barbecues (it is especially good on pulled-pork sandwiches) and keeps for two to three weeks in the fridge.
Roasted Lo Bok
Roasted lo bok is easy to prepare and makes an excellent side dish as a change from potatoes. Slice the washed and peeled lo bok into rounds about 1/4-inch thick, toss with just enough olive oil to give the pieces a light coating and place them on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and cook at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes, turning over once or twice during cooking.
Lo Bok Chips
Make crispy chips by mixing up about a tablespoon each of sesame oil and tamari, a dash of rice vinegar and a sprinkle of hot sauce. Toss this with very thin rounds of lo bok that have been patted dry with paper towels. You'll get beautifully thin chips by using a mandoline slicer. Otherwise, do your best to cut as thin as you can (no thicker than 1/4 inch).
Place the chips in a single layer on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and broil for about 10 minutes. It's best not to put the chips right next to the broiling element since they can go from crispy to burned very quickly. In any case, keep your eyes on them.
Lo Bok Go
Lo bok go is a famous Chinese New Year dim sum dish that features lo bok (even though it's commonly referred to as "turnip cake"). Although lo bok go is pretty straightforward to prepare, it requires a modicum of ambition as well as a few uncommon ingredients. There's a helpful guide to making an authentic version on the Eat, Little Bird website.
More Adventuring With Lo Bok
Once you've gotten the hang of lo bok, try adding it to some of your tried-and-true recipes. Use it in place of potatoes or parsnips in cooked dishes. Add diced radish to your soups and stews. Experiment with different pickling solutions using Asian spices and flavored vinegars. In other words, use your imagination and your taste buds, and have fun!
Lo bok is nutritious as well as versatile. A single serving of 3.5 ounces provides over a third of your daily recommended dose of vitamin C and smaller amounts of several other nutrients. It's extremely low in calories (only 18 in that single serving).