Myoga Japanese Ginger: How to Eat it and Cook With it

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Cooking with Myoga

Myoga (ミョウガ, みょうが, 茗荷), or Japanese ginger is an edible species of ginger of which Zingiber mioga silver arrow is most widely propagated. Commonly used in Japanese cuisine, cooked, as a raw garnish, and often pickled in vinegar. The flavor is mild and delicate, floral and slightly oniony.

The edible parts of myoga are the flower buds and young shoots, rather than the rhizome or root.

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What part of the myoga is edible?

The edible parts of the myoga plant are its flower buds and flavorful shoots. They can be eaten either raw or cooked and are often used pickled or used as a garnish.

The roots, rhizomes and leaves of myoga are not edible.

Is myoga a herb or a spice?

Myoga is a herb, belonging to the herbaceous ginger family.

In the culinary sense, a herb is usually defined as a plant whose leaves or shoots are used fresh or dried, sparingly, to add flavor to a dish.

A spice will normally refer to a different part of the plant, usually seeds, that have been dried, and sometimes ground to a powder.

Myoga buds and shoots are added to dishes as a fresh ingredient, rather than as a dried one: therefore it is a herb. However, the peppery, gingery flavor often leads people to describe it as a spice rather than a herb.

What does myoga taste like?

Myoga buds and shoots are aromatic, with a mild gingery and floral overtone. It has a zesty, peppery, and tangy taste, and a delicate onion flavor, similar to scallions.

What myoga alternative can you use to get the same flavor?

A mixture of chopped scallions with grated ginger is the best alternative to myoga. These two ingredients have the flavors that most closely approach myoga, with its mild gingery, oniony taste.

Some lime zest or chive flowers can also be added, to replicate the zesty or floral notes of myoga.

What popular Japanese recipes use myoga?

One very popular Japanese recipe that uses myoga is Shibazuke (柴漬け) an assortment of pickled vegetables that originated in Kyoto, and remains one of the three main Kyoto pickles today. Myoga is pickled along with cucumber, red shiso and eggplant, left to ferment for several days and served with steamed rice.

Myoga amazuzuke (みょうが甘酢漬け) is very well-known as a sweet pickled ginger dish using myoga, which is used to accompany sushi or salads.

Myoga is also a popular addition to salads, soups and rice dishes, simply shredded raw and used as an aromatic garnish.

Namiko Hirasawa Chen, a Japanese chef who writes the popular Japanese cooking website Just One Cookbook, suggests slicing fresh myoga thinly and pairing it with mizuna salad leaves and shiso for a refreshing salad.

Shihoko Ura of the Chopstick Chronicles recommends deep-frying myoga in tempura batter or adding it to miso soup.

How do you cook with myoga?

You can cook with myoga in one of these 5 different ways.

  1. Use myoga as a garnish in dishes such as salads, miso soup, chilled tofu, sashimi or noodles.
  2. Thinly shred myoga and scatter on steamed rice, hiyakko or somen noodles.
  3. Deep fry myoga in tempura batter as part of a mixed tempura plate.
  4. Pickle myoga with rice vinegar and mirin, as a side dish or garnish.
  5. Sweet-pickle myoga, for the classic dish myoga amazuzuke, sweet pickled Japanese ginger, commonly served with sushi.

When stored correctly, or freshly grown, myoga has many nutritional and health benefits and is a popular addition to many Japanese dishes.

How do you store myoga?

Fresh myoga can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week, wrapped in a damp paper towel and seal in a ziplock bag. It is recommended not to cut the myoga until directly before use, as the volatile smell may taint other items in the fridge.

To freeze, mince or slice the myoga, and seal tightly in a ziplock bag, pressing out as much air as possible.

To keep for a longer period, it is best to pickle the myoga buds and shoots in a vinegar mix.

What is the nutritional value of myoga?

Myoga is a source of various nutrients, including potassium, fiber, vitamin K, calcium, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamin C, iron, and zinc.

100g of myoga contains approximately 12 calories and 2.1g of dietary fiber. It is also high in water content, with 95.6g of water per 100g.

What are the health benefits of myoga?

Myoga is renowned for having many health benefits.

According to the website Chopstick Chronicles, myoga contains a component called “α-pinene”, which is said to have positive effects on blood circulation, digestion, sleep, and immunity. 

The pigment anthocyanin, which is responsible for the pink-red color of myoga, is a type of polyphenol which is said to help maintain eye health and prevent cancer.

The Japanese Cooking Channel claims that the potassium content in myoga assists in draining excess salt from the body, and thereby reducing swelling.

According to Speciality Produce, a company that grows and distributes unusual edible plants, the fiber content regulates the digestive tract and the high levels of vitamin K promote faster wound healing.

How do you grow myoga from seeds?

Myoga, also known as Japanese ginger, can be grown in containers that can be moved indoors to avoid freezing, or in partially shady beds outdoors. It is native to East Asia and is hardy to zones 7 to 10. It prefers high shade or semi-shade, humid atmosphere and well-draining, rich soil.

Of all the ginger family, myoga is the hardiest, with the best cold tolerance. It has been known to withstand cold temperatures of down to -16°C. Variegated cultivars are less cold-tolerant than unvariegated plants.

Is myoga a popular Japanese herb?

The Chopstick Chronicles and Holly Garret-Cole, writing for Fine Dining Lovers, both claim that myoga is indispensable in Japanese cuisine.

The data back them up: although grown in at least 4 prefectures, Japanese demand for myoga outstrips local supply, and the plant is also cultivated in Australia and New Zealand, in the NZ flying Dragon Plant Nursery, for example, and exported to Japan.

The Japanese Cooking Channel claims that minced myoga is an extremely popular garnish for noodle dishes.

According to Simon Way, writing for Japanese Taste, there are literary references to the plant’s culinary use going back more than a thousand years, to the Heian period. The plant is also connected to some religious ceremonies, such as the annual myoga festival in Shiga Prefecture, making it an ever-popular choice.

What are the differences between myoga and other gingers?

Myoga and ginger are different types of edible Zingiber species, in the ginger family Zingiberaceae. Their Latin names are Zingiber mioga (myoga) and Zingiber officinale (ginger). There are many other plants in the Zingiber genus, although most are not cultivated for food.

The edible part of these two gingers are different. With myoga, the sprouts and flower buds are used for food, and with ginger, the rhizome, stem and root are used.

They also have different flavors, with myoga having a much more delicate gingery taste, and oniony notes, whereas ginger is very much stronger and more pungent.

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Caroline first opened the doors to her own apartment in Berlin to guests, which was soon sold out. She then became the head chef of Muse Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg, for eight years, renowned for “international comfort food.”