This article is contributed by 供TOMO.
If you have ever been to Japan or if you like Japanese cuisine, you might have noticed that ginger is an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine. With sushi or on the top of a bowl of gyudon, chopped, grated, or infused, ginger is omnipresent. Its aromatic roots have been used as a spice and a natural remedy for centuries. Nowadays you can even find cosmetics made from ginger.
But why is ginger so used in Japan? Japanese food is known for being healthy, so are there any health benefits to ginger? What is the most common type of ginger used for cooking? And how do Japanese people eat ginger in their everyday life? This is what we will explain in this article!
Ginger originally comes from southern Asia. Ginger has been known for its several health benefits, and it is indeed one of the healthiest spices in the world. The three main components of ginger are gingerol, shogaol, and zingerone. They are known for their anti-aging and antioxidant properties. Often used in natural medicine, ginger can help with better digestion and eases muscle pain. It is also a natural relief for nausea.
Japanese top areas for harvest are Kochi prefecture (Shikoku island, where wasanbon sugar is also produced), Kumamoto prefecture (Kyushu island), Chiba prefecture (Kanto region, Honshu island, near Tokyo), Miyazaki prefecture (Kyushu island) and Wakayama prefecture (Kansai region, Honshu island).
You can buy Japanese ginger in supermarkets or online. You should see the expression “国産” (kokusan) which means “Japanese-made/domestically” produced on the package.
In Japanese, ginger is called “jinjaa”, which comes from the English word. You will also hear the word “shouga”.
Ginger is often used in Japanese street food: takoyaki, gyudon, okonomiyaki, curry, etc. In sushi restaurants, you will often be served ginger on the side or in a closed box on your table. But is the same type of ginger used for every Japanese plate? Of course not. There are two popular types of ginger used in Japanese food: gari shouga and beni shouga.
Gari shouga is the name given to white ginger that you can find next to your sushi plate. Some people even call it “sushi ginger” or “pickled sushi ginger”. It is a type of tsukemono (Japanese preserved vegetable). Gari is made from young ginger thinly sliced and marinated with vinegar, salt, and sugar. It has pale yellow skin, sometimes pink. Gari shoga is known for its sour and sweet taste, and it is often eaten between sushi plates and sashimi to clean your palate.
Beni shouga or pink ginger refers to thin strips of ginger pickled in the same solution as the famous Japanese umeboshi. Beni shouga is a common topping for gyudon, yakisoba, okonomiyaki and yakoyaki. It is also a type of tsukemono. Nowadays, if you buy it in supermarkets, the bright pink color might come from artificial coloring. With beni shouga, you can add a colorful yet healthy touch to your dishes.
Shougayu is the Japanese expression for “hot ginger tea”. As we said before, ginger is traditionally known for its multiple health benefits, and drinking ginger is an excellent way to take advantage of this amazing spice. All you need is to slice fresh ginger, add it to boiled water and enjoy! Ginger ale is also a popular drink in restaurants and supermarkets.
Another way to easily consume ginger is through brown rice coffee. Simply explained, brown rice coffee is an excellent way to boost your immune system, keep a balanced diet, improve your sleep quality, and so much more. It is caffeine-free and it does not contain any coffee beans. You can read about it here. Japanese brown rice coffee, also called Genshin, is also an excellent coffee alternative.
Brown rice coffee combined with ginger is ideal for preventing colds and warming up your body. In Japan, it is even said that warming up your body could promote hair growth! If you want to give it a try, Ginger Genshin is an excellent drink to start with. Made from Japanese-grown ginger and roasted brown rice, it has a delicious flavor and it tastes great with Japanese cuisine (donburi, sushi, takoyaki, etc.)
The two most common types of ginger in Japanese street food are gari shouga and beni shouga. Both of them are made from marinated ginger. Gari shouga is cut in thin slices and it has a pale color. It is often eaten with sushi. Beni shouga has a pink color due to the shiso leaves used for its preparation. It is often used as a topping for Japanese street food. Ginger can also be found in drinks such as shougayu or Ginger Genshin.
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