Regional food from Japan, Korea and China has been carving out a path for itself in the West in the past few years. Bold flavours are at the heart of its success, and heat is definitely in demand. Myoga is one emerging ingredient that packs the warm, spicy punch that’s key to Asian cooking. A herbaceous perennial native to Japan, China and the southern part of Korea, its botanical name is zingiber mioga – and it’s commonly known as myoga or Japanese ginger.
Raw myoga buds taste like a cross between fresh ginger and spring onion, but look like slender shallots. The flower buds are commonly sliced thinly and used as a garnish for dishes such as miso soup, sunomono, or plates of roasted aubergine. In Korean cuisine, they are skewered with pieces of meat and pan-fried. The young, spring shoots of the myoga plant can also be put to good use, particularly in sushi, to bring a refreshing, vibrant quality to cooking. It’s important to keep your eye on them, though – if left to grow too big, the older leaves become poisonous.
In Japan, 9,000 tons of unopened Myoga buds are produced each year for use in cooking, and while they’re yet to reach that scale in the West, we’ve certainly seen their popularity increase. New York sushi and kaiseki restaurant Shuko’s head chef first came across the ingredient as an apprentice in Los Angeles and now serves it in sashimi salad with raw slices of yellowtail, daikon radish and shiso leaf, as well as pickling the leaves for use in cocktails. Meanwhile, over in Hong Kong, Ronin is delicately pairing its white clams with myoga, yuba, sake and mitsuba (Japanese parsley).
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