It’s usually dyed a weird shade of pink, it doesn’t resemble a raw knob of ginger, and you wouldn’t even get a kick out of successfully triple-dog-daring your dad to eat a raspberry-sized blob of it like you would its sassy green sister wasabi. Pickled ginger, it seems, has always been the other sushi accoutrement.
Until an embarrassingly short time ago, when I made the connection that the odd little pile on my sushi plate came from the same root that made ginger ale and ginger chews, I was too afraid to try it. It may look slimy and gross (right?!), butwhen I did finally try it, I realized how good it tastes. It adds that perfect refreshing zing to my nigiri and my maki, and now no sushi supper is complete without it.
Sushi night at home used to mean putting on my eyeglasses and looking closely at every item in the “Ethnic Food" aisle for a small and expensive jar of artificially-dyed pickled ginger. Now, with a homemade option, sushi night is tastier, less expensive, and more natural. I’d estimate that it’s approximately one unit of ease less than using store bought, but it is well worth the effort.
A few pickled ginger tidbits: Young ginger will naturally turn slightly pink from the pickling process. Many store-bought or mass-produced types don’t use ginger that is young enough, which is one reason why it’s artificially dyed. Pickled ginger was originally served with sushi because of its antiseptic and stomach-calming properties, which were thought to prevent any ill effects of bad raw fish. Now, it’s served mainly as a way to cleanse the palate.
Slice it very thinly, ideally with a mandoline or a vegetable peeler in order to get the slices extra thin (a sharp knife will work, too). You should have around 1 cup of sliced ginger. Place it in a sterilized jar.
In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, rice vinegar, and salt so that the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and then pour it over the ginger.
Let the liquid cool slightly, then cover the jar and refrigerate it overnight before serving the ginger. It will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.