If you're like me, part of enjoying sushi is having the right accompaniments. And it's all easy to recreate at home, including the Japanese pickled ginger. Just a few minutes prep and a little waiting for that tangy sushi side you know and love.
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I've been a fan of sushi for many years, although I never have it that often. I tend to hold out for enjoying good quality sushi now and then. You really can taste the difference with a good chef and high quality fish for sashimi, at least.
That, though, has now changed.
Not far from where we are staying in Melbourne is a small Japanese restaurant. We went there once (while that was still an option, sigh) and ordered a sushi and sashimi platter for my husband and I to share as part of our meal. We got a few other things too that the kids would also like.
Of course, when the food arrived, they started asking to try the sushi and loved it. Now we get take out now and then and that restaurant is on our rotation. My eldest always makes sure sushi is in our order since apparently he's now a big fan. And he likes the pickled ginger - gari - on the side, too. I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
With us being home more, I've had the kids help cook a little more which they've enjoyed. I thought I'd try to have them help make California rolls for lunch one day. And naturally, we needed some ginger which seemed the perfect excuse to make our own.
Why is pickled ginger often pink?
In many cases, the pink is helped along with either coloring or something like radish to help to help it along, but it does have a natural basis.
You make this with young ginger which is much softer than the older, drier pieces you normally see. The ginger tips are pink which is what colors the pickling liquid.
Young ginger is very easy to cut into thin strips and also has a very thin skin. Both make it perfect for making gari.
You may have better luck finding young ginger in Asian supermarkets rather than your regular one. However if you don't manage, you can still make this with regular ginger, too.
Tips for making this at home
This is very easy to make and doesn't take long, but a few tips:
- Try to find young ginger, which is softer and brighter in color, if you can. If you can't, try to find as fresh and "juicy" a piece as you can and not too thick, so it doesn't have thick fibers.
- Peel the outside either with your fingers, the back of a spoon, a peeler or knife.
- Use a vegetable peeler or mandolin to cut the ginger into thin strips.
- Salting helps cut down the sharpness, so let it sit with salt on for around 30 minutes.
- A short simmer also helps cut the sharpness, so give the ginger a quick boil in water before draining and putting in a prepared jar.
- Bring the vinegar solution to boiling point both to dissolve the sugar and avoid it being overly vinegar-smelling.
- Make sure the ginger is fully covered by the liquid before putting in the fridge - top it up slightly if needed.
Variations in making gari
When I was looking at different ways to make this I came across a few variations, despite this being so simple. Some used more sugar, some only a little in a more water-based solution. Some used a lot of sugar while others did not. Only a few boiled the ginger rather than just salting.
At first, I used a relatively mild solution and just salted but after a day, it was still incredibly sharply ginger-tasting. I wasn't convinced it was going to get much better after longer. So I decided to try a slightly stronger solution and also boiled the ginger for a couple minutes.
The combination of both (plus I imagine an extra day to pickle too) did the trick. Yes, boiling is an extra step but it takes no time at all and I think gives a better flavor.
Making a small batch (or more, if you prefer)
Here I made a small batch as for me, realistically this is a much more manageable amount to use than a large batch, as most recipes make. You can, of course, increase everything to make more if you like.
While all the quantities are easily increased equally by making a larger batch, the one difference in technique is how to warm the pickling solution. With a larger batch, I'd tend to do this on the stove as it's easier to watch, while with a small amount it's much easier in the microwave.
The pickles will keep for at least a few days in the fridge, providing the ginger is kept submerged in the pickling liquid. You can also can them properly to store them longer, but make sure you follow proper sterilization processes etc.
Whether you're looking to make your own sushi and need all the sides, or just want something a little different to nibble on, making Japanese pickled ginger is an easy project and definitely one to try.
Looking for more pickles and chutneys? Try these:
- Rhubarb chutney
- Brinjal pickle (Indian eggplant/aubergine chutney)
- Vietnamese quick pickles as in my banh mi style soft shell crab sandwich
Japanese pickled ginger
- 1 oz ginger 30g, ideally young ginger, or as fresh as possible
- ¼ tsp salt
For pickling liquid
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 ½ tsp sugar
- Peel the ginger with the back of a spoon/vegetable peeler and/or knife to remove the skin but not take off too much else.
- Cut thin slices of ginger using either a mandolin or vegetable peeler. Put the slices in a small bowl and sprinkle over the salt. Rub it in so all pieces have some on them then leave for approx 30 minutes.
- Towards the end of the time, make the pickling liquid by putting the vinegar, water and sugar in a microwavable bowl and mix gently. Microwave in 15 second bursts so that the sugar and salt dissolve and some of the stronger vinegar smell goes. Set aside.
- Once the ginger has sat in the salt, place them in a small pan of boiling water and simmer for around 2 minutes (you can do a little more to soften/make more mild). Drain the ginger and put in a clean, sterile jar. Pour over the pickling liquid and make sure the ginger is submerged under the liquid. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours, but ideally 2 or 3 days.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
I've drawn on a few recipes in creating this recipe, as mentioned above, but particularly this one from Just One Cookbook.
See more pickle ideas for this month's #FoodieExtravaganza:
- Middle Eastern Pickled Turnips by Pandemonium Noshery
- Pickled Rainbow Chard Stems by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Lime & Beer Pickled Red Onions by Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice
- Indian Raw Papaya Pickle by Sara's Tasty Buds
- Pickled Star Gooseberry by Sneha's Recipe
- Spicy Pickled Grape Tomatoes by Food Lust People Love
- Hot Pepper Vinegar by Palatable Pastime
- Pickled Pork Tongue by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Dill Pickle Grilled Cheese Sandwich by Making Miracles
- Fried Chicken Sandwich with a Spicy Bread and Butter Pickle Coleslaw by Karen's Kitchen Stories