What Is Oshinko?

A Guide to Using and Understanding Oshinko

Oshinko maki sushi

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If you're a vegetarian who loves sushi, you've probably come across oshinko before, but just didn't know what it was called or have always heard it called something else. Oshinko is a type of Japanese pickle which is often rolled up into sushi (with seaweed and rice) to make an Oshinko roll (more precisely called Oshinko maki). It's also labeled as oshinka (with an "a") and also "pickled radish".

Oshinko is usually made from daikon radish, which looks like a large white carrot. Once pickled, however, oshinko made from daikon is yellow in color. Other vegetables, including cabbage and cucumbers, can also be used to make oshinko, though daikon is most common. In other words, the word oshinko can be used to refer to a variety of different types of Japanese pickled vegetables, though if you're not sure what it is that has been pickled, it's more than likely to be daikon radish. 

Oshinko maki usually consists of a roll made from seaweed wraps (nori), sushi rice, oshinko, and little else, wrapped into a roll then sliced into bite-sized pieces.

What Does Oshinko Taste Like?

Daikon tastes like a very mild type of radish, perhaps more like a cross between a carrot and a radish. Because it's made with salt, oshinko tastes like a salty pickled lightly-flavored radish. It's a unique flavor, probably more similar to homemade sauerkraut than the type of pickle you'll get at a deli alongside your sandwich. Besides, you usually only eat a little bit of oshinko–you're not biting into it like an apple–and the unique taste combines well with the equally unique taste of seaweed and sushi rice. If you like Japanese food, vegetarian sushi, or maki rolls in general, you'll probably like oshinko and oshinko maki rolls just fine. 

Is Oshinko Vegetarian? Is an Oshinko Roll Vegetarian?

Yes, oshinko itself is both vegetarian and vegan, since it is just pickled daikon radish or other vegetables. Normally, an oshinko roll will be vegetarian and vegan as well. An oshinko roll, or oshinko maki, will usually just contain oshinko and sushi rice wrapped in nori seaweed. However, if you're at a Japanese sushi restaurant, it's probably best to check what's in the oshinko roll to be 100% certain it's vegetarian or vegan.