Focus: Ginger

Ginger is one of those ingredients that took age and experience to truly understand. I mean, looking at it, it’s not a very appealing thing. Yet right next to spring onion, ginger is another indispensable ingredient in daily Chinese cuisine from all regions of the country. It has a bite and tastes spicy if you eat it raw (not recommended for the mild palette) and while you don’t have to eat it at all at the bottom of the pot, you do have to use it. Technically a root, it makes up the trifecta of Cantonese stir-fry aromatics (that would be together with spring onion and garlic) and can be used in everything from deserts to steamed dishes. If you love seafood, ginger is used to take away the “ocean smell” and is the Chinese cooking equivalent of using lemon in your salmon.

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WHAT TO DO:

  • Keep it dry. Put it in the fridge or in a cool dry place because mouldy ginger is bad.
    Use a parring knife to shave or peel the skin before use; I often use the blade to scrub back and forth along the skin and most of it will come of without taking too much ginger with it.
  • Ginger can usually keep a long time so if its a good price, time to get a bunch.
  • Buy ginger that looks plump instead of super wrinkly and dried out. Ginger with stringy bits that look like fiberous threads means its quite old. Nothing wrong with using it for cooking (usually roasts or braised recipes) but its more hassle to cut.
  • Sometimes you might notice a little sprout or bud forming from your ginger, that’s just itself propagating (usually in warmer weather) but don’t be alarmed, it’s still find to eat.
  • In certain dishes its perfectly fine to use powdered ginger instead of fresh ginger but read you recipe carefully.

WHAT NOT TO DO:

Nothing I can think of at the moment but I will update if anything comes to mind. I suppose my only tip would be to approach ginger…gingerly if it’s your first attempt because the taste is a very strong one especially for young kids.

Also, don’t even try to use pickled ginger or candied ginger in lieu of fresh ginger. It’s not the same and won’t taste the same. If you’re thinking about it, stop thinking about it.

LAST WORD:

Ginger custard is a very popular Chinese desert that may tickle your fancy. It’s sweet and smooth yet has the distinct aroma of ginger without the sharp bite. Here’s a recipe from Taste Hong Kong and another from Kitchen Tigeress.

If you have a hard time getting a grip on this little root, Simply Recipe has a great post on how to cut, chop and julienne ginger.

Ever bought something that looks like ginger but didn’t turn out right in your dish at all? Chances are, you found its cousin galangal – more details in this enlightening post from The Kitchn.

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