Spice route – Pickled Pink
Shin-shoga no amazu-zuki, gari or pickled sushi ginger, is one of those exotic and highly desirable meal accompaniments which has been brought to us from the East, and if you are anything like me, then sushi is on the menu more often than not. It is a conundrum, as only I like it; my significant other refuses to venture forth into the realms of such foreign unknowns! But slivers of avo and cucumber, accompanied by white-hot wasabi, and thinly rolled bales of sticky rice encased in delicious seaweed appeals to something adventurous in me, and dipped into slick and salty soy sauce makes this one of those must-haves.
Gari falls under the umbrella of tsukemono, or pickled vegetables, and is sweet, thinly sliced preferably young ginger which has been preserved in sugar and vinegar. It is traditionally thought of as a palate cleanser due to its sweet-sour flavour, although many people prefer to eat it with their sushi. Conventionally, gari varies from pale, buttery yellow to a soft, coral pink, the end colour the result of the type of ginger – young, firm ginger has pink tips, whereas more mature ginger is pale yellow.
Beware though, as certain Oriental restaurants add food colourants to intensify the pink colour, and many diners are put off by it. They vary from unhealthy (E124) to harmless (beetroot juice), but do not despair, if the pretty pink colour tickles your fancy, many home-based garis are made with the addition of a radish in the pickling juice.
Gari also has minor antimicrobial properties and is traditionally believed to be useful when consuming raw food. Gari’s spicy, sweet vinegar flavour is extremely appealing to many palates and a jar of this delicacy made at home is ideal to hand out as gifts or simply store for rainy days, and it keeps rather well (up to two months).
Young ginger is mild and of a softer, fleshier texture than the mature kind we would typically have in our kitchen. The skin is soft and thin, and very easy to peel, use the tip of a rounded teaspoon instead of a peeler; it’s a much simpler way of doing it. Slice the ginger thinly with a mandolin (watch those fingers!) or a vegetable peeler, and get started with a fabulous treat.
Young ginger is mild and of a softer, fleshier texture than the mature kind we would typically have in our kitchen.
• 150g ginger root
• 1 tbs salt
• 1/2 cup rice vinegar
• 3 tbs water
• 1 tbs plus 2 tsp sugar
• Radish (optional).
Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, slice the ginger into super thin slivers. For the best consistency, cut lengthwise along individual sections and not across the grain of the root. Aim for transparently thin slices which are around 5cm in length.
Massage the salt and ginger together in your hands, giving it a good rub. Leave in a bowl in the fridge for 5 to 6 hours, or even overnight.
Rinse under cold water to rid the ginger of excess salt, and then squeeze it between your hands to release most of the water.
Loosely pack the ginger into a clean
Put the remaining ingredients into a small pot and stir over medium heat, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and then turn off the heat.
Pour the liquid over the ginger, and give the jar a shake to release any trapped air bubbles.
Cover tightly with the lid and store in the fridge for up to 3 months. Wait at least
48 hours to 1 week before opening the jar to taste, the ginger will still be harsh and strong – time is needed for the flavours to amalgamate.
Note: If you are using young, tender,
pink-tipped ginger, you can skip the salting process completely.
Your delicious pickled ginger has many uses other than as a palate cleanser or accompaniment to sushi. It is delicious chopped up in stir-frys or noodle dishes, tossed into salads or with deep-fried green beans and peanuts, or added to soups before serving. It also makes an excellent addition to black tea, fresh, home-made lemonade, and cocktails.