Pickled Ginger (or Gari)
Pickled ginger is the ubiquitous condiment served in sushi restaurants. It is a wonderful palate-cleanser, making it possible to switch between various foods and be able to fully appreciate the flavors of each. We’ll make it for our bentō to allow you to enjoy the unique flavor of each dish; just nibble a slice of Gari before switching to a different item. While most have probably only tried pickled ginger from the store, it is easy to make at home — and wow! — the homemade variety packs a much stronger ginger punch. You will probably never buy this again.
FOR MORE ABOUT BENTO AND ITS COMMON RECIPES, SEE JAPANESE BENTO.
• 1/3 pound ginger root
• 1/3 cup rice vinegar
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/3 teaspoon salt
• 3-4 dark red shiso leaves
1. Scrape the brown skin off the ginger roots using a spoon. Shave into paper-thin slices using a mandolin or a sharp knife. Blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds; drain.
2. Mix together the vinegar, sugar and salt until everything is dissolved. Shred the shiso leaves. Put the blanched ginger, shredded shiso, and vinegar dressing into a half-pint canning jar. Cap and shake vigorously. Refrigerate.
The ginger slices can be eaten after 24 hours, but will improve and turn a deeper pink over the next week or three.
Shaving the ginger into thin sheets really can’t be done by hand with a knife — although you can try. Rather, this is an excellent job for a mandolin. If you don’t own one, you should consider getting one for your kitchen: we bought ours for only $1 at a second-hand store.
Jeff Nekola has a PhD in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has a passion for biodiversity in its many forms, whether it be plants, butterflies, and land snails in the wild or crops grown in gardens, orchards and fields, or the use of those foods as expressed by the entire range of humanity's cuisines. You can learn more here.
Linda Fey's first and finest childhood memories are of helping her mother and grandmother in the garden and then bringing in freshly picked produce to the dinner table. As an adult, she has over 20 years of experience in market gardening and teaches middle-school English at the Albuquerque Institute for Math and Science. Visit www.LindaFey.com to view her writing about food and life.