Pickled ginger, or sushi ginger, is called gari or shin-shoga no amazu-zuki in Japanese. It's served with sushi or sashimi and eaten between different kinds of sushi. The ginger’s spiciness and sweet vinegar flavor cleanse the palate in between eating different pieces of sushi, allowing you to enjoy different kinds of fish and rolls. It's also great with century eggs, which are a Chinese delicacy.
You can find prepared pickled ginger in pink or white at most Asian markets but here's a simple recipe to make your own.
Only Use Young Ginger
Young ginger is harvested and sold in early summer. It has a mild ginger flavor and a fine fleshy texture that is tender, unlike matured ginger usually used for cooking. Look for ginger with the pinkish tips in an Asian grocery store. This pink pigment makes the pickled ginger naturally pink. Some of the commercially produced and sold pickled ginger is artificially dyed, but you should be able to find some brands that avoid the artificial coloring.
The young ginger’s skin is very thin and easy to peel with your fingers or a spoon. It’s thinly sliced and then marinated in sugar and rice vinegar mixture.
- Wash young ginger root and scrape off any brown spots with a spoon. Then scrape off all the skin with a scraper, or peel the ginger by hand.
- Slice the ginger thinly and salt the slices.
- Leave salted ginger slices in a bowl for about 1 hour.
- Dry the ginger slices with paper towels and put them in a sterilized, heat-resistant container or jar.
- Mix the rice vinegar and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil until the strong vinegar aroma has evaporated.
- Pour the hot mixture of vinegar and sugar over the ginger slices. If you want to keep it spicy, take it out after about a minute. Otherwise, leaving it in for 2 to 3 minutes works well.
- Drain the slices in a sieve and let them cool by placing them on a paper towel in a single layer. Pickled ginger changes its color to light pink. (If you are using old ginger, it might not turn pink naturally.)
- With clean hands, squeeze the liquid out of the slices and place them in a jar. Cover the jar and store it in the refrigerator. The pickled ginger will last in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.