Red pickled ginger and sushi ginger are both pickled ginger as you know…
But, what exactly are they, and what is the difference between the two?
To put the difference simply, red pickled ginger is ginger soaked in plum vinegar. On the other hand, sushi ginger is ginger soaked in sweet vinegar.
Basically, both of them are made from young ginger (see the picture below), because normal ginger tend to have too pungent taste and too fibrous.
Let’s dig deeper into differences!
Table of Contents
Red Pickled Ginger
What Is Red Pickled Ginger?
What Does Red Pickled Ginger Taste Like?
What Do You Use Red Pickled Ginger for?
How To Make Red Pickled Ginger
The 5 Best Red Pickled Ginger Substitutes
Red pickled ginger is called beni-shoga (紅生姜) in Japanese. It’s made by shredding young ginger and soaking in plum vinegar.
Sushi ginger is just sliced very thinly, while red pickled ginger is usually finely shredded.
The reason why it’s red in color is that the shredded ginger is soaked in plum vinegar. Plum vinegar is liquid made when making umeboshi (salted plum), and raw materials of it are plum, salt, and red shiso (perilla). The red shiso actually makes the plum vinegar red.
By the way, despite the name, “plum vinegar” is not really vinegar, but salty liquid with subtle sourness of plum and great flavor of red shiso.
Some red pickled ginger are light red, others are quite dark red in color. The depth of color normally depends on how much red shiso you put in the plum vinegar. More you put red shiso when making umeboshi, the plum vinegar become darker red. For that reason, you would get darker red pickled ginger.
Unlike the sushi ginger, it’s not made with sweet vinegar sauce. So, needless to say, it’s not sweet at all.
As I mentioned above, plum vinegar is not vinegar but made from plum and salt. So, you wouldn’t feel strong sourness neither. (There is a subtle sourness of plum though.)
You would feel more like refreshing flavor of plum and red shiso. And, the main taste of red pickled ginger is a little salty and not too strong but great pungent taste of ginger.
Red pickled ginger can be used for a wide variety of dishes. Japanese people often put it on top of beef bowl, yakisoba (stir-fried noodles), rich taste ramen (tonkotsu ramen), etc as a topping.
Also, people cut it into small pieces and put it in takoyaki or okonomiyaki with other ingredients.
All of the above have in common that the meal itself is rich or the sauce is quite strong. In other words, red pickled ginger plays a role in refreshing dishes with a strong taste.
It’s very simple and easy! Prepare boil sterilized bottle, put shredded young ginger in it, and pour plum vinegar. In a one night, ginger is dyed pink and becomes red pickled ginger.
Sushi ginger is sweet pickled ginger, and made by slicing young ginger and soaking in sweet vinegar.
It can be described as “pickled ginger in sweet and sour” among Japanese, but mostly called “gari (ガリ)” in Japan. The word “gari” seems to have been familiar as an industry term for sushi restaurants.
Unlike red pickled ginger, sushi ginger is light pink or yellowish in color.
The reason why it becomes light pink is that Anthocyanins contained in ginger reacts with vinegar and dyes light pink. By the way, Anthocyanins is abundant in the reddish part of ginger. So, if you cut that part before pickling, it is not dyed really pink, but is soaked in white or yellowish color from the beginning.
Also, even if it is pink at first, it gradually fades and changes to a yellowish color as the soaking period becomes longer.
You would feel mild sourness and sweetness of sushi ginger. The flavor of vinegar and sugar are perfectly well-balanced. And, it matches so well with the pungent taste of ginger.
Sushi ginger is absolutely essential ingredient to enjoy sushi in Japan. I think every sushi restaurant is serving gari with sushi. Gari comes even with take-out sushi.
Since its taste is very similar to vinegary rice, they are a perfect combination indeed!
Some people might eat it on a daily basis if they really like the taste, but usually gari is only eaten when people eat sushi.
It’s not nigiri sushi (sushi shaped by hand), but some people add finely chopped gari to chirashizushi (scattered sushi) along with other ingredients.
First of all, slice the young ginger fairly thinly. Prepare boil sterilized bottle, put sliced ginger in it, and pour sweet vinegar. The taste of the sweet vinegar sauce is a key to success! It totally depends on your taste, but the recommended recipe of the sweet vinegar is below.
Sweet Vinegar Sauce
・0.85 cup (200ml) of Rice vinegar
・5 tablespoons of Sugar
That’s all for the information about red pickled ginger and sushi ginger!
Did the differences become clear?
I hope you enjoyed learning the mystery of Japanese ginger (^o^)
Please try to make them at home if you have a chance. I recommend to use young ginger (shin-shoga), and it must upgrade your Japanese dishes!