Myoga (ミョウガ, みょうが, 茗荷) is the species Zingiber mioga in the Zingiberaceae family. Native to Japan, China, and Korea, myoga is harvested for its unopened flower bud and flavorful shoot instead of its root. The flower buds are slightly larger than thumb-size and they come in striking pinkish-bronze outer layers. It is sometimes called myoga ginger or Japanese ginger.
How does myoga ginger taste like?
Myoga has a very distinctive flavor, with a mild ginger overtone and zesty tang. It has a tender crunchy texture and gives a refreshing taste to the palate. That is why the Japanese believe eating myoga can help boost appetite. However, one should practice caution, as according to a famous legend that eating too much of myoga can cause forgetfulness.
Myoga in Japanese cuisine
These unique ginger buds are more commonly used in Japanese cuisine that one would expect. They can be eaten fresh or pickled. The easiest way to enjoy myoga is to finely shred the flower buds and use as a garnish in dishes such as sashimi, soups, cold noodles, sushi, salads and in vinegar salads (sunomono 酢の物). I love adding some finely chopped myoga into my miso soup and cold somen noodles for some bright flavor.
Myoga is truly a versatile ingredient to enjoy. Brine in vinegar, sugar and other seasonings, you get a delightful myoga pickle. Slice the flower buds in half, coat in batter and then deep-fried, you get some delicious vegetable tempura. They can also be grilled or pan-fried with fish or meat. These beautiful ginger buds add such a special touch to so many dishes that they are even used to accent desserts and cocktails.
In Japan, you can even find restaurants that specialize in serving myoga-inspired dishes.
Where to find myoga ginger?
Japanese grocery stores or some Asian markets will carry myoga either fresh or pickled. For those who have a garden and live in a temperate climate, you can buy myoga seeds online and grow them in your backyard. Their peak season is from June to July. but it can be grown year-round.
I hope you get a chance to give this unique Japanese ginger a try!