When ethnic cuisines are exported, mass-marketed, and made available for home delivery here in North America (“pizza-fication” perhaps?) their quality usually suffers in two ways: Shortcuts are taken in technique and inferior ingredients are used. Thankfully, it is tough to get a master sushi chef if you’re only willing to pay minimum wage (I imagine) but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be nearly as difficult to get discount wasabi and pickled ginger.
A quick google search unearthed the fact that pickled ginger is simply thinly sliced ginger salted to draw out some of its moisture and then pickled in a mixture of vinegar and sugar (in a ratio of 3:2 by volume).
How can this be useful? Well, I admit that I have never made sushi at home and delivery sushi (especially from the very good Kokyo; try the Johnny Special Roll) almost always comes with ample pickled ginger. A couple slices of this ginger straight from the jar is an excellent “pre-snack” because it gives the palate something to do and settles the stomach while I decide whether I’m actually hungry or not. Speaking of settling the stomach, ginger is a proven (by the Mythbusters so I won’t bother finding a link) treatment for motion sickness so this jar sounds like a great addition to the hangover remedy kit.
What I’m looking forward to most about this experiment is saving the pickling liquid and using it for asian sauces and dressings. I imagine that carrots, shredded napa cabbage, snow peas and a handful of peanuts would taste great with a dressing of oil and gingery-sweet vinegar drizzled on them.
Quick Pickled Ginger
- A couple thumb-sized pieces of ginger
- 3/4 C rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 C white sugar
- 1.5 TB kosher salt
- Peel ginger using the teaspoon method. This involves cutting the ginger so that it has a flat side, putting the ginger on a cutting board flat-side down (see top picture), and scraping the skin off using the edge of a teaspoon.
- Using a chef’s knife, mandolin, or kyocera-type handheld slicer slice the ginger as thinly as possible. Be careful of your fingers if using a slicer–trust me.
- Sprinkle salt on sliced ginger and let stand at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. Remove moisture and excess salt from the surface of the sliced ginger by patting it with paper towels.
- Heat rice wine vinegar and sugar on medium-high heat until it almost boils. Don’t walk away from a pot of (near) boiling vinegar because vinegar steam has a very strong odour that stinks up an apartment for days–again, trust me.
- Fill a 250 mL Mason jar with the sliced ginger and pour in enough sugar-vinegar mixture to cover (there may be some extra). Refrigerate for at least a couple of days before enjoying; the separate sweet sugar and hot ginger flavours will combine and mellow. Remember that this is a quick (non-preserved) pickle that must be refrigerated and will not last longer than a few weeks.