Meet Ginger – the undisputed superfood spice, that all at once adds zing, flavor, nutrition and health to your food. Make this hardy spice a part of your daily intake, and reap the myriad magical health benefits it has to offer.
Ginger, a rhizome, is actually the stem of the ginger plant. However, since ginger grows under the ground, it is often referred to as ginger root. Ginger root usually grows about 6-8 inches and has a thin light brown skin that protects a hard yellowish core.
A must-have pantry essential
I have an obsession for this miracle spice! Right from starting my mornings with a piping hot cup of chai to spicing up my curries and biryani’s, my kitchen simply comes alive with the aroma of this pantry essential. In fact, I love to end my day with a cup of warming lemon ginger tea that soothes and relaxes my mind and body.
Where did ginger originate from?
The origins of ginger goes back over 5000 years. While some believe that ginger originated in China, others claim that it was born in India. It is believed that India exported large quantities of ginger, to ancient Rome. Ginger, also known in India as adrak, is widely used in Ayurveda – an ancient form of Indian medicine, and finds a prominent place in a lot of grandma’s home remedies.
Taste and Flavor
You cannot put a finger on the exact taste of ginger, but I’d say it is a mix of aromatic, pungent and sharp – all at the same time. Hugely popular in Indian cooking, ginger elevates the flavors of your food several notches up. You can funk up just about any dish with some freshly grated or minced ginger. Ginger is a staple in my cooking; I use it to flavor my breakfast, lunch and dinner.
So is ginger indeed a wonder remedy?
Ginger root is widely known for its immense medicinal properties. Ginger is one of the most natural therapies against morning sickness and all forms of nausea. Fresh ginger is known to be a powerful anti-carcinogen, and among a host of other benefits, ginger is known to reduce inflammation, relieve ulcers and heartburns, aid with digestive problems, protect against diabetes and clear congestion.
How to choose good ginger?
There are a few different varieties of ginger in the market, depending on where you buy it. Most local groceries carry the regular ginger root, that has a light brown with thin skin. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carries organic ginger, which is smaller and slightly darker than the other variety. Indian grocery stores carry both varieties. The organic or “desi ginger” (Indian variety) is more intense and has a sharper bite. However, both varieties are flavorsome and work great in cooking.
Many asian grocery stores also carry tender ginger which is baby ginger that is light cream colored with pink tips and is juicer and sweeter than the regular ginger. It is often used to make pickled sushi condiment. I love adding it to my tea for a fresher taste. Pro Tip: Keep the tender ginger refrigerated, wrapped in paper towels to extend it’s shelf life.
MOC’s Pro Tip for prepping and storing fresh ginger
Ginger can be stored in the freezer for upto 6 months. Since I use ginger liberally in my cooking, I buy a few pounds of organic ginger at a time. Best place to buy organic ginger is either whole foods, Indian groceries or H-mart. Instead of grating it everyday, I like to make a big batch of finely processed ginger and freeze it in either freezer zip lock bags or silicone ice cube trays. When needed, I simply break pieces from the zip lock bag or take out the cubes out from the trays. You will be amazed to see how handy this prep can be especially if you use a lot of ginger in your cooking.
Here are more details on how I prep and store fresh ginger for my cooking:
- Scrub and wash thoroughly for a few times under running water
- Dry well using paper towels and slice roughly into pieces
- Blend it in the food processor or a high speed blender like Blendtec using the Twister Jar. Note: Do not add water while blending
- You can refrigerate the paste in a glass jar for 3 to 4 days
- For longer shelf life, I always freeze the paste in ziploc bags. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of ginger in a quart sized freezer bag and spread it evenly to make a thin layer. You can stack up multiple bags and freeze them flat in the freezer. Pro Tip: Do not make a thick layer of ginger as it will be hard to break it off when you need to use smaller pieces
- You can also freeze it in silicone ice cube trays. Mine holds around 1 tablespoon in each compartment which is a good portion to take out when needed for cooking
- When needed simply break off small pieces of ginger from the zip lock bags. If you need ginger for multiple dishes through the week, you can keep a bag in the refrigerator and use it as needed
- Similarly with the ice cube tray frozen ginger, you can take out a few cubes at a time and keep it refrigerated in a glass jar
To Peel or not to Peel
I prefer not peeling the skin off of the organic ginger I buy. If there are any rough or bruised parts, I simply cut them off. The skin of the ginger root is not only flavorful but also nutritious, hence I grind the ginger along with the skin. But if you prefer you can always peel the skin off using a spoon or a peeler.
I always save some ginger root as is, as I like to garnish my curries with diced or julienned ginger. One of my absolute favorite curry with lots of ginger is the EASY Chicken Karahi Recipe which is a super popular recipe on my blog.
Is dry ginger powder a substitute for fresh ginger?
Made from dried ginger root, ginger powder has a more concentrated taste than fresh ginger. I usually keep some powdered dry ginger (known as sonth or suntha powder in India) in my pantry. I use it in marinades, for baking and for making homemade spice blends such as tea masala for my Masala Chai.
Although I would not recommend substituting dry ginger for the fresh one, in some recipes you can add it after adjusting the amounts asked for. So, if the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of ginger, replace it with 1/4th teaspoon of ginger powder.
A curry or marinade that uses a mix of several dry ground spices could be a good recipe to substitute fresh ginger with the powdered one. For example, if you were to use ginger powder in the Chana Masala recipe, it will work just fine. But, I would not use dry ginger powder in the Chicken Cilantro Soup as the flavors will be very different.
Are you ready to start using this superfood in your cooking? Here are top 10 recipes that highlight the zesty flavors and aromas of fresh ginger:
- Ginger Chai
- Lemon Ginger Tea
- Ginger Lemonade
- Healthy Green Smoothie
- Brussels Sprouts Salad
- Broccoli and Tofu Cutlets
- Masala Chicken Burgers
- Tandoori Chicken Wings
- Batata Bhaji – Spicy Potatoes
- South Indian Yogurt Rice
More articles on cooking basics:
- Indian Spices – A list to must have curry spices
- Types of Pulses – Learn the names of dals & beans
- Garam Masala – 5 ingredient recipe for the best homemade masala
- Chole Masala – Homemade Chana Masala Powder Recipe
- How to make ghee – EASY ghee recipe with Kerry Gold Butter
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