Beni Shoga or Red Pickled Ginger is made with julienned young ginger that has been pickled in plum vinegar. It is a refreshing palate cleanser and appealing garnish for Japanese street foods such as yakisoba noodles, takoyaki, and okonomiyaki. You will need only 2 ingredients for this easy pickle!
Have you ever noticed the bright red, thin strips garnish that is often served atop of Yakisoba, Takoyaki, and Okonomiyaki? In Japan, the red pickled ginger is called the Beni Shoga (紅生姜). Irresistibly tangy and crisp, the pickled ginger offers a lovely contrasting bite to any crunchy, fried food.
What is Beni Shoga
Beni Shoga, also known as red pickled ginger, is a garnish/condiment made of young ginger. The quick pickle is sometimes called Kizami Shoga (刻み生姜), as ‘kizami’ or ‘kizamu’ means to cut or chop.
Thin strips of julienned ginger is pickled in ume plum vinegar or umezu (梅酢). The bright red color of the pickle comes from red shiso leaves, or Akashiso (赤紫蘇), used in the brine (see how it’s made here). Store-bought beni shoga is often made with artificial coloring.
Beni Shoga is an easy pickle to make that lasts for a year! If you enjoy making food from scratch, summer is the time to get your hands on this as the younger ginger is only available in the season.
What’s the Difference: Beni Shoga vs. Gari
It’s easy to mistake Beni Shoga (Red Pickled Ginger) for Gari (Pickled Sushi Ginger) as both are made with young ginger. But here are the differences:
- Main uses: Beni shoga is typically served as a garnish or as an ingredient that goes with fried/ grilled food or hearty rice bowl. You’ll see it in Yakisoba, Takoyaki, Gyudon, and Okonomiyaki. On the other hand, Gari is mainly served with sushi (and sometimes sashimi).
- Color: Beni shoga gets its bright red from plum vinegar while gari gets its light pink hue from sweet vinegar (Amazu).
- Cut: Beni shoga is julienned into thin strips while Gari is thinly sliced.
- Taste: Beni shoga has a tangy, sour flavor from ume plum vinegar. Gari has a sweet and tangy flavor from rice vinegar and sugar mixture.
How to Eat Pickled Red Ginger (Beni Shoga)
Pickled red ginger adds flavor and color to the dish and is often used as a garnish or palate cleanser between bites. You’ll see it being featured in the following Japanese dishes:
Beni Shoga Used As A Garnish
Beni Shoga Used As An Ingredient
- Fried Rice
- Osaka-Style Okonomiyaki
How to Make Beni Shoga
Two Ingredients You’ll Need
1. Young Ginger
Young ginger is tender and has a mild bite and flavor (not as spicy). It’s in season during summer months. So keep an eye out for early May through June at the Japanese or Asian grocery stores. We also use young ginger to make Pickled Sushi Ginger (Gari). Both pickled gingers last for a year, so if you can grab a lot of young ginger, I highly recommend making a huge batch. They make such thoughtful homemade gifts too!
2. Ume Plum Vinegar
The red color from Beni Shoga comes from the ume plum vinegar, the brine that’s produced during the Umeboshi (Japanese Pickled Plums) making.
If you don’t make umeboshi, don’t worry. You can purchase a bottle of ume plum vinegar on Amazon or your local grocery stores like WholeFoods, co-ops or health stores.
Overview: Cooking Process
The preparation is easy breezy!
- Cut the young ginger into julienned pieces.
- Mix the ginger and ume plum vinegar.
- Pickle for a few days!
Tips on Making Delicious Beni Shoga
- Use young ginger – It’s really important to use young ginger as it is tender in texture and mild in flavor. Regular ginger can be very fibrous and spicy.
- Use a tiny bit of ume plum vinegar – If you want to make it lighter red in color, use less ume plum vinegar and distribute a small amount of plum vinegar around the ginger.
- Use homemade ume plum vinegar – For those who are already making umeboshi, you’d want to reserve the ume plum vinegar from the process and use it for this quick pickle recipe. It’s like the fruit that keeps on giving as you expand the entire homemade treats.
Red Pickled Ginger (Beni Shoga)
- Gather all the ingredients. Sterilize a jar or pour hot water and wipe the jar with high % alcohol (shochu or vodka).
- Peel the ginger with a sharp knife (or the back of the knife) or a spoon. The skin is very thin, so you can easily remove the brown spots.
- Using the knife, thinly slice the ginger lengthwise into thin slabs. Stack several slabs and cut into julienned strips.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the ginger strips and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Drain the ginger well in a fine mesh sieve and let cool over a large flat surface (I used a bonzaru, Japanese bamboo sieve). Alternatively, wrap in a clean kitchen towel, and gently squeeze to remove excess liquid. The ginger cooking liquid can be enjoyed as ginger tea or shoga-yu (生姜湯).
- Once cool completely, add the ginger into small jars or one big jar/container.
- Add ume plum vinegar. Here I show two variations: two dark red and two light red in color. To make lighter red, you only add a small amount of ume plum vinegar, almost no excess liquid in the jar.
- Mix well and close the lid. Store the jar in the refrigerator overnight and up to several days.
- You can keep the red pickled ginger in the refrigerator for up to a year. Always use a clean utensil to pick the ginger from the jar before serving.