By Mari Nameshida/ Special to The Japan NewsFresh ginger is a great condiment to warm your body, as well as to add a peppery flavor to various foods. Although powdered ginger can be used for cookies and cakes, Japanese cuisine often calls for fresh ginger. It is an indispensable ingredient, appearing in many forms: sliced, diced, chopped and grated.
Ginger is also used in some dishes to reduce strong fishy or meaty odors. Japanese cuisine traditionally doesn’t include many herbs or spices, but ginger is one of the key flavors in washoku.
I would like to share my recipe for shoga-gohan ginger rice, which is sure to become one of your favorite dishes if you love the taste of ginger.
From June to August you may find ginger with pinkish edges at supermarkets or greengrocers. This is young ginger that has been freshly harvested, called shinshoga in Japanese. Young ginger is juicy, with a very mild level of spiciness. You may have tasted it as gari pickled ginger, which is often served in sushi restaurants.
If you can’t find young ginger, you can use mature ginger, which is typically available all year round, to make ginger rice. As mature ginger tends to have a more bitter flavor, you should reduce the bitterness by rinsing chopped ginger with water before cooking.
I recommend adding green peas to ginger rice, which will fill the dish with springtime color. You have two options: cooking the rice and green peas together or adding boiled green peas after cooking the ginger rice. The former option gives the rice more of a pea flavor, but the latter option gives it a nice texture and a more vibrant color. In this recipe I’ve chosen the latter option.
Ginger rice is part of the large family of dishes called takikomi gohan — rice seasoned and cooked with various ingredients, which is very popular in Japan. It is undoubtedly my favorite way to cook rice. I like to use carrots, burdock root and beans. Sometimes I also use chicken thigh pieces.
The dish is simple to cook. Place the ingredients on top of the rice in a pot or a rice cooker, and then cook all of them together.
I think this is a nice cooking method, which manages to pack the flavor of the ingredients into the rice. Even when there seems to be nothing to eat in your house, you can cook seasoned rice with anything that you have in the fridge. I prefer to use seasonal ingredients so I can enjoy different flavors all year round.
I know that some people love unpolished brown rice instead of white rice. Brown rice is healthier, but it is also less sticky. For ginger rice it’s better to use white rice because each grain of white rice absorbs the ingredients’ flavor well, which makes the dish even more delicious.
It is also important to soak the rice in water for at least 15 minutes before cooking. If the grains absorb enough water in advance, the cooking time will be shortened and the texture of the rice will improve.
It is not difficult to cook ginger rice or other variations of seasoned rice. I hope you experiment by using trying a range of your favorite ingredients.
Mari’s recipe for ginger rice
Ingredients (Serves 6):
450 grams of rice
100 grams ginger
100 grams green peas, boiled
450 milliliters dashi broth (or water)
3 tbsp sake
3 tbsp soy sauce
1. Rinse uncooked rice and soak for at least 15 minutes. Drain well and place in a rice cooker or pot.
2. Finely chop ginger and place the pieces in a bowl with enough water to cover them. Rinse them well to remove harshness, then drain well.
3. Put chopped ginger, dashi broth, sake and soy sauce in a rice cooker or pot. Cook the rice.
4. If you use a pot, adjust the heat level yourself. When it comes to a boil, cook for seven minutes on medium heat then cook on low heat for 10 minutes with a lid on the pot. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes with the lid on to steam the rice.
5. Mix roughly then sprinkle green peas on top.
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