Stir-Fried Hakurei Turnips with Dried Shrimp, Chiles, Garlic and Lime

Stir-Fried Hakurei Turnips-1

If the word ‘turnips” doesn’t make your heart go pitter-patter there’s a good chance you’re suffering from the after-effects of  Araac Syndrome (Ate Rutabagas As A Child).  Let’s face it, rutabagas are to gastronomic pleasure what Miss Hannigan is to social work.  Not to worry.  We have the cure for what ails you: Stir-Fried Hakurei Turnips with Dried Shrimp, Chiles, Garlic and Lime.

In an earlier post Jody and I used Macombers, the turnip equivalent of Vidalia onions, to ameliorate some of this damage.  But while we live within a sweet turnip’s throw of Macomber fields, good luck finding a bagful anywhere else.  Fortunately an alternative has arrived in the form of the Hakurei, a delicious Japanese variety, now available in chi-chi restaurants and farmers markets coast to coast.  According to the Food Channel (cough, cough) Hakureis were developed by the Japanese in the 1950’s as a response to food shortages following the Second World War.  As any new parent soon learns, the first requirement of any novel food designed to supplement the public diet is that it taste good, or at least not taste dreadful (R.I.P. oat bran muffins), otherwise it ends up on the floor.  No matter how nutritious.  I think I’ve mentioned how difficult it was to get my mother and my mother-in-law to try Macomber turnips because of their experience with rutabagas during WW II.   Believe me, Hakureis are up to the task.  Small, white and almost fruity, they’re guaranteed to lure back turnip exiles.  In fact they’re so good you’d think they would have gotten a little more traction before now.  I was able to find a 2007 reference to them in New York magazine, which goes to show what a culinary backwater I live in, because I’d never heard of them until a few years ago.   These days, they’re popping up as everyone’s favorite new root vegetable.  Clearly we are just beginning to plumb a deep reach of turnip desire.  To my palate, their mild flavor recalls the taste of breakfast radishes, if you made breakfast radishes a little bit sweet.  If you slow-roast them Hakureis they become even sweeter.   They require no peeling, you can add them to salads raw, and their greens are also delicious when cooked.  Stir-fried, they’re an easy side for a baked whole fish.  Served alone, all you need is a little rice and you’ve got a plant-centric lunch for four.  It’s conceivable that in the future, with a little assist from Hakureis, “Eat your turnips!” might even come to mean Hey, do something nice for yourself.  Enjoy.  Ken

Stir-Fried Hakurei Turnips-2

Stir-Fried Hakurei Turnips with Dried Shrimp, Chiles, Garlic and Lime

Makes 4 servings


  • 2 bunches small Hakurei turnips with greens attached (about 16 turnips)
  • 3 tablespoons high-heat vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons small dried shrimp
  • 3-5 bird peppers (see Jody Notes)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Juice of 3 Key limes or 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil


  1. Soak the turnips in tepid water for 15 minutes.  Rub the bulbs to remove the dirt, particularly at the point where the greens meet the bulb.  You don’t need to peel them.  Rinse the leaves under running water.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil over high in  a wok.  Add the shrimp, stir fry until toasted, about 1 minute, stirring constantly, then remove to a plate and reserve.  Add  the turnips.  Sear all over for about 3 minutes.  Add the peppers and garlic and stir fry until the garlic starts to brown.   Add ¼ cup water, cover, and then cook until the turnips are just tender, about 6 minutes.  Remove the cover, add the lime juice, soy sauce, honey and sesame oil.  Toss a few times and then transfer to a platter and serve warm or at room temperature topped with the fried shrimp.

Stir-Fried Hakurei Turnips-3

Stir-Fried Hakurei Turnips-5

Stir-Fried Hakurei Turnips-6

Jody Notes:  

These sweet little turnips are really fun to work with and take to bold seasonings like soy sauce, sesame oil and lime.   If you have larger turnips, cut them in half or smaller so they cook evenly.  If you are concerned that the greens will overcook before the turnips are done, cut them off the bulbs and add them in a few minutes after the turnips have been in the wok.  

Thai bird peppers are hot, but nothing like scotch bonnets.  You can increase the heat by slicing up one of the peppers and adding it–including its seeds–when you add the whole ones.  

When I got home from the restaurant later this evening, that little bowl of fried shrimp you see in the photo above was empty.  I think it was Roxanne.  They’re addictive–one shrimp and you’re hooked.  Fry up an extra batch at your own risk.       

Click on something to see it with a little more detail.  Left and right arrow keys will move you through the photos.

46 thoughts

  1. These look delishious, and although I’m much too young to have lived during WWII, I had enough turnip forced on me as a child to have a goodly case of Araac Syndrome. However ,I’ve never even heard of Hakurei turnips here in my Southern Ontario City, but after seeing this, I will be on the look out for them. : )

    • Hi, Conor. As you can see from some of the other comments, my disparaging comments weren’t universally appreciated. I think because in my particular American Irish culinary tradition very little was done to, shall we say, evoke their hidden blessedness. I have no doubt that with a bit of proper seasoning and a lot of fat, they’re more than palatable. Ken

  2. Beautiful photos, Ken. I especially love the top left in the collage. And, amazingly, we have every single ingredient to make this– including a refrigerator full of Hakureis. (Our CSA farmer is perhaps a tad too enthusiastic about them.) But, don’t knock the rutabagas too much. That old Union Square Cafe recipe with the fried shallots atop mashed rutabagas is really good!

    • Hi, Michelle. You and Molly Parr are both defending rutabagas against my turnip calumnies. As I remarked to Conor, early formative experience counts for a lot. But, I remain open minded and I’ll check the recipe out, along with Molly’s reference to Ottolenghi’s. Glad you like the photos. You picked Jody’s favorite too. Ken

  3. Wow. I usually read your posts on my smart phone while drinking my morning coffee. Am reading this on the desktop without my contacts in and photographs POP. Beautiful design enhancement, intriguing recipe. Saw Jody’s bucatini rescipe in the latest issue of Food and Wine. Well done.

    • Uh-oh, our identity’s blown. We’re pleased with the new look, much more focussed. Also, some photos get lost if you can’t display them in a certain size. Thanks. Ken

    • Okay, I’ll swap you some turnips for some trout, and we’ll flip to see who makes the eggs. Thanks for the enthusiasm over the new look. Just don’t peer too far behind the curtain–it’s gonna take months to straighten out the previous posts. Ken

  4. I’ve scrolled back up to those two side-by-side photos at the beginning of this post three times. What gorgeous photography! I think I’ve left a comment in the past about my uncle’s refusal to eat sweet potatoes for the past 65 years: They were the only vegetable consistently available while my family hid in Provence during World War II. He tells me that he tries to ignore most tubers for this reason. Although he, along with the rest of the family, can never get enough artichokes. (10 minutes in the pressure cooker, I learned this spring, btw.) Ottolenghi has an outstanding raw rutabaga recipe in his first cookbook. Honest-to-goodness, I made this twice in one week. Just superb.

    • RAW rutabaga??!! Okay, never let it be said I’m a closed-mind git who refuses to try something new. I’ll give it a try., especially if it has the Ottolenghi imprimateur. (Happy you liked the photos. We like the look too.) Ken

  5. Rutabaga, or swede as they’re called here in Southern England, are known as turnip in N. Ireland and Scotland. Actual turnips are a very new veg for me. Even bought a white one today in a superstore I went to for the first time. More soup on the cards.
    – Love the red board you’re using, btw. Especially effective for the turnips and leaves.

    • Michelle and Molly have suggestions for non-sweet turnip recipes above. The red background is actually a low Chinese table, battered and marred, I found in somebody’s garbage pile. I alway have an eye peeled at yard sales and trash heaps for new surfaces. :-) Ken

  6. I’ve never heard of these turnips, Ken, but your post is very well-timed. I’ll be heading to the farmers market first thing tomorrow morning and will look for them. They sound delicious and your stunning photography couldn’t make them more appealing.

    • I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find them. They seem pretty ubiquitous these days. Farmers like them because people who aren’t turnip-lovers will buy them. Thanks for the kind words on the photos. Ken

  7. Loving the photography Ken. Nice background with the wooden table. I’ve never come across these little beauties before – you reckon I can find them in London? Looks tasty though so when I seek them out I will come back to your recipe. Best Torie ps: am liking this little black box to type in as well. Nice new format!

    • We’re happy with the new format too. Thanks. You can use any small turnip in place of the Hakurei, although they have their own special flavor. If I ran across some small purple tops I certainly consider those. Ken

  8. What a gorgeous dish! I love the hakurei turnips prepared any number of ways but this looks especially appealing. Unfortunately, they’re already out of season here and I need to find a dish for the other turnips!

    • Hi, Frida–Thanks for stopping by. I’m happy you enjoyed what you found. Come back again. When I look at a map of visitors and see one or two little dots from a distant country I’m always intrigued–who is that? What are they looking for? Ken

    • If the turnips are larger you can separate the greens and give the turnips a head start. You can also quarter the turnips, but we think they’re prettier that way. I tried to track down the origins of “Hakurei,” but all I could find was a video game character with the name Reimu Hakurei. Ken

      • I did, too, but nothing is available in Japanese either. I did find out that Hakurei is often considered the best kind for eating raw and is otherwise known as “salad turnip”. Our most popular, easy-to-buy turnips look like yours but I didn’t know there were so many kinds with different names.

  9. My parents once tricked me into believing diced fried turnip root were potatoes. I’ve been suspicious of turnip root ever since. This recipe looks incredible, though. I just bought dried shrimp for a Chinese recipe in Fuchsia Dunlop’s cookbook, but I’ll plenty left over to give this one a whirl. I’m not sure how prevalent Hakurei turnips are in Denver. Might be time to make a put stop at Whole Foods. :)

    P.S. Love the website updates, by the way.

  10. Not sure that turnip desire is in my future, but I could certainly go for a fistful of those shrimp right now. Turnips have never been high on my shopping list, but this recipe could change that….now I’ve just got to find some hakureis.

    • Easy enough around here. I’ve never been a turnip guy either – quite the opposite in fact, although a few people have been so insistent about a couple of recipes that I’m going to give them a try. Thanks. Ken

  11. Pingback: Menu Plan 6/28 | Domestically Seasoned


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