Sushi Party (With Pickled Ginger Recipe)

One of our goals for this week was to each create a blog post your reading pleasure.  When this came up, I (Mike) instantly jumped up and passionately proclaimed that we would make sushi, and that it would be my blog post.

The first thing I did was create a list of the different types of sushi and accouterments I wanted at my party (in this case, a party for one).  I decided to make nigiri (the type of sushi usually consisting of a lump of rice with a hunk of veg or protein attached), maki (your standard assorted rolls), miso soup, and a miniature rice bowl.  I surveyed my ingredients and decided that I could make nigiri featuring avocado, marinated tofu, zucchini, and some no-tuna pate.  The rolls would be an assortment of whatever I had around, and the rice bowl would include some chives, avocado, tamari, and assorted spices.

The usual condiments for sushi include soy sauce, wasabi paste, and pickled ginger.  I had a small amount of pickled ginger on hand, but I really wanted to take another crack at preparing it from scratch.  A little research led me to some interesting information.  Apparently there is a reason why pickled ginger is often dyed pink.  Traditionally, only young ginger was used for the condiment.  This ginger was shaved thinly and then salted and massaged.  After letting it sit for a length of time, boiling vinegar and sugar was poured over the ginger.  This is where the magic happens – apparently a chemical reaction happens between the salted ginger and the boiling vinegar that causes it to turn slightly pink!  The chemist in me loves tidbits like this.  We won’t go through quite that much effort to pickle our ginger, but I did have a healthy way to dye it pink, using our good friend the beet.

Homemade Pink Pickled Ginger
Makes about 1 cup

about 6 inches of ginger root, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1 small beet (unpeeled is fine)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Rice wine vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (or any other vinegar, really)


1. Once the ginger is peeled, continue using the peeler to skim very thin pieces off of the root. Collect all of your pieces is a bowl and add the salt.  Massage the ginger for a minute or two to work in the salt.  Let it sit for an hour or so.

2. Once the ginger has sat, bring a pot of water to boil.  Take your beet and cut 3 quarter-inch thick circles from it.  Pop two of the circles into the pot of water and cut the other beet circle into chunky sticks.  Set aside the beet sticks for now.
3. Add the ginger to the boiling water and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.  Once the time is up, strain the ginger and remove the beet circles.
4. In a small mason jar or resealable container, pour the agave nectar and about a tablespoon of each of the vinegars (if you don’t have multiple vinegars, just use more rice wine vinegar).  Add the ginger and one or two beet sticks to the jar and shake it up a bit.  Add more vinegar, in a 50:50 ratio, until the ginger is completely covered.
The ginger will need to sit and mellow for a while before you will want to eat it.  Luckily, the boiling reduces that time greatly.  It will be perfectly edible and not too astringent after a few hours, but it is ideal after sitting overnight.  The pickled ginger can be refrigerated more a few months without worry.  I love how brightly colored the ginger is, but especially love the fact that it wasn’t done with any weird chemicals!

With the ginger finished, I was ready to make the sushi.  I won’t go into the finer points of sushi rolling, but I will cover a few general points:
  • Proper sushi requires short-grained rice.  Cook the rice using 1 cup of rice to 1 1/4 cups of water.
  • When the rice in done you will need a mixture containing rice vinegar, salt, and sugar.  I would use 1 tablespoon of vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Stir this into the rice.
  • For most sushi rolls, spread the rice very thinly on the nori sheet, covering just over one half of the sheet (more for a fatter roll, less for a thinner roll).
  • Place the fillings on the rice in a neat little pile, keeping each item together.
  • A bamboo mat is not required for rolling.  Carefully wrap the nori and rice around the fillings, trying to keep the roll nice and tight.
  • While rolling, lightly dampen the end of the nori sheet to help it stick and close properly.
  • The most common problem people run into while rolling sushi is that the rice does not ring around the food perfectly.  This all just comes down to practice.  Delicious practice.  I am actually incredibly proud of myself that my rolls turned out so well.
  • For nigiri, cut a nori sheet with scissors into thin ribbons and dampen them slightly.  It can take a few tries to get the ribbons looking nice and not cracking.

The first of my sushi rolls is a fairly standard veggie roll with tofu, chives, carrot, beet, cucumber, and avocado.

This second rolls uses shredded kale instead of rice as the base.  Very delicious.  Fillings are similar to the above roll.

The other rolls present include a simple cucumber roll with a squirt of sriracha and a roll created using the no-tuna pate.  I meant to include the pate in the other rolls, but I completely forgot about it.  Oh well.

One thing you may notice right away is that this sushi party involves a lot of food.  Probably almost enough for two people.  One of the best parts about eating sushi is the variety on the table in front of you.  In light of this, I always like to create a bunch of different things, and then save some leftovers for the next day.  I even ate my leftovers for breakfast!

During every sushi party there tends to come a point where you get tired and annoyed and you curse the very thought of making sushi.  This usually occurs about ten minutes before you get to put the first piece in your mouth.  But oh man, once that first piece hits your taste buds (and the wasabi hits your sinuses), you know it was all worth it, and you will totally do it again.  Have a good one, friends.

  • coconutandberries

    So gorgeous! And I need to make that no-tuna paté too.

  • Clarabelle

    These look awesome! Veggie sushi can be some of the most diverse 🙂

  • FoodandLoathing

    Stop being so damn impressive! Just kidding, please keep being impressive, it's awesome.

  • Hannah

    Totally loving the beet-dyed ginger idea.

  • Kari

    This is really embarrassing, but I honestly couldn't have told you how pickled ginger got from ginger to, well, pickled. Your efforts are fantastic and the sushi sounds delicious!

  • Jolene – EverydayFoodie

    Wow – your sushi looks amazing!!! I am obsessed with pickled ginger – I pile that stuff on my sushi. I love that you made your own!

  • Maggie Muggins

    I luuuurve pickled ginger, for some weird reason it's probably my favorite part about sushi eating. I've always wanted to attempt making sushi at home but I'm scared I will put in all this effort and it will end up tasting like ass…now you sir, yours looks nothing like ass. It looks incredible!

  • Joey

    That really is a properly gorgeous looking spread – the colours!

    I ran out of sushi ginger the other day and could really have done with your recipe then. The whole beet-dyeing thing is apparently a Japanese staple – I've seen celebration rice dyed pink with beet before. Nice.

  • one crafty lady

    Do you have more information about the chemical reaction that takes place? I'm also a curious chemist!

  • mike.

    Well I have done a lot of searching around and it is apparently really hard to find so good information on the subject. Some sources say it has something to do with the sugar used during the pickling, but I am pretty positive that is not the case. Others say it is a product of aging as the chemicals break down, but I doubt this as well. The ginger traditionally used is very young ginger rhizomes, and high-quality versions still do this as well. Supposedly only especially young ginger will turn pink without some kind of dye. I don't think using young ginger would be important if it was the aging process that created the color.
    The most likely explanation that I found has to do with the good ol' pH scale. My guess is that some of the chemicals present in the softer young ginger are released and break down in the vinegar, producing something that functions as an indicator. Most natural indicators (like red cabbage juice) turn red when exposed to acids, so it seems like a likely explanation. If I can ever get my hands on some ginger that fits the bill then I definitely plan on testing this out. Maybe soaking the pickled ginger in some sort of alkaline solution would turn it green or blue. That would be a sight to see. Science. Awesome.

  • Gabby Ouimet

    Cool! I had no idea it was so easy to make pickled ginger!