Resembling a buoy with tentacles and sporting an odd sounding name, kohlrabi is not a sexy vegetable. However, it comes around this season to many farmers’ markets. I paid more attention to it recently after receiving this message:
I'm a huge fan of your books and website, and have loved trying to create Vietnamese food at home. I've recently run across a quandary and am hoping you could help. We've joined a local CSA here at Cal Poly Univ, where we just moved from Honolulu, and we keep getting Kohlrabi bulbs in our weekly produce.
I am pretty sure we have eaten this in Hanoi/Vietnam, but I cannot remember what/how exactly, I also can't remember the term in Vietnamese. I'm having trouble eating it raw, so today I am making it into a pickle, following your easy carrot and daikon pickle recipe (that is FABULOUS thank you!), and hopefully that will work. But I was wondering if you could tell me in which recipes this vegetable appears in Vietnamese cooking. At first, I thought maybe it is the funny crisp green thing sliced into kidney shapes and put in dipping sauce for bun cha and other dishes, but then I think maybe that's green papaya. Could it be used in a green papaya type salad?
Anyway I've searched your website, your books, and the internet at large and the mystery remains. Please help me figure out if there is a good way to use kohlrabi,,, maybe in some Vietnamese style food. And what the heck is this called in Vietnamese? (I think su hao is the squash that looks like a sock puppet, but somewhere online that came up as a translation for kohlrabi…err)
Kohlrabi is indeed called “su hao” in Vietnamese. It is a prized vegetable because of its crunch and sweetness. Some liken it to the broccoli stems and a sweet turnip, though it is technically related to cabbage.
It is a root vegetable and you can eat the tender leaves too, which tastes like collard greens. I add the leaves from the ones photographed above to a simple everyday Vietnamese canh soup with some pork and onion.
In Vietnam, people eat it raw, pickle it, drop it into soup (particularly with fish maw), and stir-fry it too. My mom’s eyes practically glazed over with delight when I mentioned su hao.
The key to buying kohlrabi is to pick one that’s not woody. Tom Coke, a local farmer in Santa Cruz County, told me to look for smooth skinned, firm ones that are consistently round. “Once they get elongated, they tend to be woody.”
Kohlrabi is rather pricey because only one grows per plant. But one medium one is enough for 2 people. It’s dense flesh!
What do you do with kohlrabi? I know it’s enjoyed in other parts of Asia. What is it called elsewhere?