Kikkabu: How to make kabu chrysanthemums

Here’s an easy recipe you can use for special winter celebrations such as Oshogatsu. Kikkabu: kabu cut to look like kiku (chrysanthemum flowers). They look much more difficult to make than they really are. Anyone with good knife skills can easily do this at home.

Kabu are Japanese turnips. In Japan they come in many sizes and colors, but in the U.S. they are most commonly found in white and are a little bigger than golf balls. This is the perfect size to make the flowers, which people always think are too pretty to eat (but are really glad when they try them). They’re wonderfully crunchy, fresh and sweet.

RECIPE (serves eight)

1. Peel eight kabu. Cut the bottoms so they lie flat on the cutting board between 2 chopsticks. (You can chop and salt the green leafy tops to make quick pickles).

2. Make very thin (1/8″ or less) vertical slices, taking care not to cut all the way to the bottom. The chopsticks prevent this for the most part, but be careful with the first and last slices. You must cut perfectly square and even slices that are perpendicular to the cutting board.

3. Turn 90 degrees and make vertical slices again. This is a little tricky because you must hold the slices together with your other hand while slicing. Be careful of your fingers! If your slices were not perfectly uniform, you may have some stray pieces, but that’s OK.

4. Soak kabu in a bowl filled with 1 cup of cold water mixed with 1 tsp salt for 30 minutes (as shown in the top photo).

5. Remove, squeeze out as much water as possible, and soak at least eight hours (or overnight) in a container filled with 1/2 cup water, 3 tbs rice vinegar, 4 tbs sugar, 1/3 tsp salt and one 2 inch piece of kombu (kelp).

6. Remove kabu from the marinade and arrange the sliced “petals” outward to resemble flowers. (You’ll find the texture has changed and the kabu are softer than before.) Garnish with a few slices of dried red pepper in the middle of each flower, as shown in the photo.

You can use kikkabu as an edible garnish, add to a jubako (lacquer box) or served in individual portions on kozara (small plates). Browse our small selection of colorful, antique kozara on our online gallery for fine Japanese tableware, Mizuya.