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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Myoga ginger shoots garnish sushi, sashimi

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

Myoga is a variety of ginger — but we use the shoots and flower rather than the root.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

If someday you're in a very traditional sushi restaurant and notice a sliced or grated garnish that somewhat resembles a shallot in appearance but has a sweet, floral flavor, you may have just encountered myoga.

Myoga, known to botanists as Zingiber myoga and sometimes called myoga ginger or ginger shoot, is a member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). It is native to western China (where it was used to treat fever) but now grows wild in the mountains of Japan and also is cultivated. Unlike gingers that thrive in tropical climates, this one is cold-weather tolerant.

Myoga begins as an underground rhizome that sends up prolific green shoots just like other gingers, but the part that's used is the above-ground shoot that appears in spring and the sterile flower produced in autumn. Myoga is prized for use in sushi, in chazuke (tea-and-hot-rice dishes), with tempura or tofu, in soups, pickled or as a pungent garnish for sashimi.

We found myoga at Marukai's main store on Dillingham Boulevard, and you may also encounter it at other Asian groceries and in Japanese restaurants. Look for plump, pink-tinged shoots that appear fresh-looking, not withered or browned.

The flavor is elusive — sort of gingery but also surprising sweet — and the texture and appearance are that of a crisp ringed onion, not fibrous like common ginger. Serve it very thinly sliced atop hot rice with hot green tea (chazuke), slice or grate it over sashimi or grate it over steamed tofu.