I love sushi. I love it so much. I love everything about it. The fish, the rice, the nori, the little wad of wasabi, but as much as I love all of that, I love the pickled ginger, or gari, even more.
Oh, pickled ginger, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. You’re sweet and sour, spicy, fresh, snappy and PINK!* You pack so much punch into such a little package.
*Pink. Sigh. I love pink.
On those rare occasions when my husband and I can actually go. out. of. the. house. without. children, we almost invariably head for sushi joints. Being creatures of habit and fond of our ruts, we’ve established a little routine. (If you’re a sushi purist you may want to look away.)
- We look over the menu and order far too much sushi with the justification that we can take leftovers home to the children.
- When the sushi arrives, we each take an identical roll.
- He pours soy sauce over the bottom of his plate, drops his portion of the roll into it, piles it with wasabi then manoeuvers the whole thing to his mouth adeptly with chopsticks.
- I eat a piece of pickled ginger, put a couple dots of wasabi on my roll, dunk a corner in soy sauce, and dive in.
- We then repeat until we have to call for more pickled ginger and wasabi and the waitress gives us the stink eye.
- We call for a small box to house the one lonely California roll we managed to save for the children and waddle out of the restaurant clutching our overfilled bellies.
- We take a nap in the car then drive home.
I know. The glamour and high-living we exhibit is stunning. It’s okay if you need a moment to process that.
The pickled ginger, though. Mmmm. During each of my pregnancies, I craved it like other people crave ice cream. I ate it on everything from rice bowls to sandwiches. I sent my husband over to the Asian foods market across the street from his office to grab a new jar for me almost weekly. Then one day I looked at the ingredient list and saw two things I didn’t like; aspartame and food dye.
I sent him back the next day to get me a different brand. He came home with a white pickled ginger. Still with the aspartame. Blech.
It curbed my enthusiasm for pickled ginger a little bit until I got to thinking about making my own. It was a duh-and-a-half moment. Me. The Kitchen DIY Queen. I hadn’t even considered making my own. *headsmacksdesk
A little searching on the internet yielded a plethora of pickled ginger recipes for experimentation and an interesting tidbit of information about the pink connection for pickled ginger. I learned that young ginger, the variety that yields the best pickled ginger, naturally turns a soft pink when pickled. Old ginger, on the other hand, may not. So I ask you, what gives on the food dye?
After playing around with several recipes, I realized that the best of the lot was also the simplest. I also learned a few helpful tips:
- While young ginger yielded the best texture and flavour, old ginger that was pickled also had a certain charm to it.
- Slice the ginger as thinly as is humanly possible. A mandolin or extra sharp knife and a dose of patience is your best bet.
- Slice across the ginger instead of slicing lengthwise. This yields an easier-to-chew result.
- To easily peel ginger, scrape the edge of a regular spoon over knobs of ginger. The skin should easily peel away. If it doesn’t, and you have to dig the skin away with the spoon, you have older ginger.
Don’t be alarmed by the quantity yielded by this recipe. It keeps nearly forever in the refrigerator and -if you have friends that are like me- it makes a thoughtful and unique food gift.
Snappy, spicy, sweet and sour, pickled ginger is not just for sushi. Serve with rice bowls or as a palate cleanser with seafood dishes. You'll be thrilled at how easy it is to make this classic Japanese condiment.
15 mins Prep Time
5 mins Cook Time
- 1 1/2 pounds young, fresh ginger (*see notes)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
- 3 cups unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 cups granulated sugar (**see notes)
- Wash the ginger and use the edge of a spoon to gently scrape away the skin.
- Slice the ginger as thinly as you possibly can across the knob (not lengthwise!)
- Toss ginger slices with salt in a colander and leave over a bowl or the sink for one hour, tossing again occasionally.
- Lay the ginger slices out on a clean tea towel or paper towels to blot some of the excess moisture from them before putting them in a heat-proof jar or container that has a tight fitting lid.
- Bring the rice vinegar and sugar to a boil and pour immediately over the ginger.
- Put the lid on tightly and allow to cool completely at room temperature.
- Refrigerate for at least one week before serving.
- Stores indefinitely in the refrigerator.
*You can test the age of the ginger in your store several ways. In young ginger, the skin should look smooth and tight. It should feel heavy for its size when lifted. If you scrape your thumbnail over the skin gently, it should peel away with little effort. You can pickled older ginger, but it may be a little chewier. **Use granulated white sugar for the best looking pickled ginger. You can use raw sugar, but the pink colour will not be as pronounced and it may add a slight caramel flavour.