We have all tried sushi and honestly, I don’t know many people who aren’t disappointed when the accompanying condiments are not good. Wasabi with its great burn and spice, and the Gari. Yes, that’s right gari or Japanese pickled vegetables are those thinly sliced and marinated pieces of ginger that come next to your sushi. It is a great balancing act to cut through the heat of the wasabi and add a subtle sweetness to the sushi. Gari is also not just used for sushi but across a variety of dishes in Japanese cuisine.
So, Gari is Ginger?
Gari isn’t a name we are used to hearing. You might see it listed in some sushi menus but we usually just call it ginger. You have probably seen the two forms of gari which is the brown-skinned ginger root “shōga” and the more tender, pink-skinned younger root “shin-shōga”. These are both actively used in Japanese cuisine. There are also different ways to prepare gari that changes in techniques:
- Beni Shoga: made by pickling thin strips of ginger with plum vinegar. Packs a sharp, strong, dominant flavor. It compliments savoury, hearty dishes, by providing a strong contrast in taste and flavor.
- Sushi Gari: made by marinating the flat strips of young ginger or “shin-shōga” in vinegar and sugar. This combination of sharp vinegar and sugar gives sushi gari a much sweeter, milder flavor. This makes it a perfect condiment for the delicate flavors of sushi.
The young ginger used in sushi ginger, provides a much tenderer texture and naturally sweeter flavors. The pickling process gives the ginger its pink color, which is now more on demand across the planet. Through process of margination, the salts and acids naturally turn the ginger pink in 2-3 minutes. This color can fade to the familiar yellow hue through heat and oxidation. Most of the gari we are served these days are given their pink color through the use of food coloring. You might also be served the older, naturally yellow color.
How to Make Ginger Last?
As with most perishables today, refrigeration can help extend the shelf life of gari. Gari when stored properly, can keep its flavor and texture. Best temperature to store ginger is 34-35 degrees Fahrenheit or 2-7 degrees Celsius. It is important to remember that long refrigeration can make the gari’s texture rubberier. Prolonged refrigeration can also make young ginger harden, so, remember to cut off the external hardened layers.
To add some valuable time to the lifespan of your ginger, you need to make sure you are properly packaging the ginger before storing in a refrigerator. As clean as you keep the inside of your refrigerator, there are still bacteria to mold and grow bacteria the food inside. So, make sure whether with paper towels or plastic bag, to properly protect your ginger from air and bacteria. You can also mince the ginger and place it in an air-sealed container to make it last longer.
One vital way to make your ginger stay fresh longer, is to only peel as you use. The peeling allows for oxidation to take place, so if you have already peeled and sliced your ginger then make sure to freeze it. Ginger can last as long as 3 weeks with when not peeled and stored in refrigeration. When ginger is pickled, they can last around 5-6 months. If you have fresh ginger root it can last much longer, unsealed 1-2 week, and 3-6 months in the freezer.