We had a bounty of young fresh ginger brought to us while on our recent trip to Bacolod. I LOVE young ginger, and have written about it before, here. Young ginger has a much thinner skin than that of its older relatives, and possesses a sweeter, lighter flavor and aroma. Young ginger is perfect julienned and added to steamed fish dishes, and it is excellent for salabat or ginger tea. Although often referred to as “ginger root” it is in fact a rhizome, I think, which means it is an underground stem or beginnings of a stem. The tips of the ginger seek the sun above, and are typically tinged in pink and when peeled, the ginger also has blushes of pink. I find the best way to peel young ginger is to use an inverted spoon or teaspoon, scraping the skin with the spoon concave relative to the ginger, scraping with the tip of the spoon… This makes it easy to get to the knobbly pieces and the hard to get too nooks and crannies… We made some crystallized ginger with some of this bounty by boiling the peeled ginger and simmering them in sugar water… but there was still a LOT of ginger left over.
I decided to try and replicate the pickled ginger that you get in Japanese restaurants and didn’t realize that it is SO INCREDIBLY EASY to do. I love those thin slivers of sour/sweet pickles which come with plates of sushi and sashimi… The ginger is really there as a palate cleanser, before one has another piece of raw fish or seafood. To make the Japanese style ginger pickles, I peeled roughly 250-300 grams of ginger with a spoon and sliced it on a mandoline until quite thin (don’t go to the thinnest setting, or it will be too translucent after marinating. I would say go a notch or two thicker than the thinnest… Next, I boiled up a pot of water, added the ginger and waited for the pot to return to a boil before draining the water and turning off the burner. Let the sliced and blanched ginger cool a bit while you make the pickling solution.
Add the ginger to a heat proof, non-reactive bowl like stainless steel or glass. In a pan over high heat, add 1 cup Japanese rice vinegar, 5 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt until it hits a boil and the sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour this very hot mixture over the sliced ginger and mix well. Many folks say this is going to turn a slight tinge of pink, but I was concerned that it wouldn’t turn pink enough, so I cheated and added 1.5 drops of red food coloring. It turned out perfect. Some of you may want to add more sugar if the vinegar you use is particularly acidic. And trust me, the versions you get in restaurants have a LOT more food coloring and possibly much more sugar as well. Let this cool and stick it into the fridge to mellow for a day or two. I had some with some sushi a few days later and it was excellent. Definitely something you should try if you are a big fan of Japanese ginger pickles AND you find yourself with a sudden bounty of young ginger… Would make great presents for a fans of Japanese food. Enjoy!