Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed watermelon radishes have been finding their way onto decorative plates at several local restaurants.
When sliced into thin rounds, the stunning variegated magenta, red and, or purple color fills the center, with a white ring of flesh present just below the skin portion.
The flesh itself delivers a crisp yet moist texture, as well as a refreshing balance of sweetness and the signature underlying peppery radish flavor. The skin is the more bitter portion of the radish, so it’s often peeled off before using. One can additionally soak the radishes in ice water to help reduce their peppery notes.
While I find watermelon radishes best suited for raw preparations, I do, on occasion, add them to soups and stir-fries, or roast them in the oven with other seasonal root vegetables and potatoes. I also commonly add very thinly sliced rounds to a hot chicken tortilla soup, delivering a wonderfully refreshing flavor to every bite.
Other great uses for watermelon radishes are to fry them into chips, turn them into pickled radishes or incorporate them into an array of salads. One of my favorite seasonal salads combines sliced watermelon radishes, sliced Fuyu persimmon, pomegranate seeds, cilantro and thin slices of jalapeno, all tossed in a rice vinegar dressing.
This week I added thin slices of watermelon radishes to homemade spring rolls. Spring rolls are something I make quite often, usually filled with cooked seared tofu, cucumber, avocado, fresh mint, and cilantro.
When it is in season, however, I love to swap out the cucumber for watermelon radishes, delivering a uniquely refreshing flavor and stunning presentation.
Watermelon Radish Tofu Spring Rolls
2 watermelon radishes.
8 ounce package firm tofu, liquid drained and tofu wrapped in paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.
10 spring roll wrappers.
1 large avocado (firm-ripe), cut into slices,
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves.
1 cup fresh mint leaves coarsely chopped.
Serve with a side of peanut sauce and sweet chili sauce for dipping.
Peel your watermelon radish and slice very thin, then set aside. You can use a mandolin if you have one to slice them. Cut your tofu block into 8 spears. In a large non-stick pan, put over high heat and spray with a small amount of cooking oil. Once the pan is very hot, add the tofu.
Flip every few minutes to evenly sear on all sides, and once a semi-crispy exterior is formed, add teriyaki sauce to the pan and gently toss to coat tofu. Set tofu aside.
Roll one at a time on a plate. Place spring roll wrappers in hot water for about a minute, then transfer to the plate. Add, toward the bottom portion of the spring roll wrapper, a tofu stick, followed by avocado slices, cilantro and mint. Finish with a layer of watermelon radishes.
Roll the spring roll, folding in the sides after the first roll, and finish rolling to the end. Repeat.
Serve with a side of Thai style peanut sauce and sweet chili sauce for dipping.
Yield: Makes 10 spring rolls.