Ginger is an important ingredient in Asian cuisine due to its distinct taste and scent. The part of the ginger plant used in cooking is actually the rhizome, or underground stem, however young ginger leaves can be used the same way as sweet or hot basil in stir fried dishes. Aside from adding flavor to food, it has numerous beneficial qualities for maintaining good health.
People who live in warm climates can easily grow their own ginger and enjoy the beautiful flowers by following the directions mentioned on this page:
Purchase only firm, smooth and light colored ginger for cooking. Cut off pieces of ginger at the joints and wrap the remaining portion tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. You can also prevent oxidization by wrapping it with a dry paper towel and then placing it in a zip lock bag. If you want to store the entire unused piece, with the skin still intact, place it in a small brown paper bag and then the refrigerator.
Another clever way to store ginger is to grate the entire root into a piece of clear plastic, roll, wrap and freeze it in stick form which will allow you to break off pieces which can be melted into sauces or blend into fruit drinks. That nifty idea is from this site:
Many Asian dishes begin with a mixture of chopped garlic and crushed ginger which are both used to flavor the hot cooking oil. I recommend first placing the garlic into the oil, adding meat, soy or fish sauce, vegetables and then grating the ginger over the cooking ingredients, turn off the heat, stir and serve. By grating the ginger into the dish near the end of the cooking process you are preserving the scent and taste of the plant rather than allow it to all evaporate due to excessive exposure to heat.
In closing I’d like to include a couple simple ways to incorporate ginger into your everyday cooking.
Chili Ginger Oil
This oil can be used in stir fried seafood dishes, poured over steamed vegetables, dumplings, pasta salads or even steaks and grilled chicken.
You’ll need chopped garlic, ginger, whole dried chili, vegetable oil, sesame oil, sea salt thick or plain soy sauce.
Turn on the vent over your stove and open the windows. Warm the dried chili in a pan, then add vegetable oil. Once the oil is warm (not smoking) quickly add the garlic, sea salt and grated ginger. Turn off the heat before the garlic burns and stir in the sesame oil. Lastly you can add in soy sauce or thick soy sauce which will cause the mixture to sizzle.
Gari is thinly sliced preserved ginger which is usually eaten with sushi. You can pull out some gari and blend with olive oil, toasted sesame seeds or a small amount of peanut butter and soy sauce to create an exotic salad dressing.
As in all recipes for pickling you follow the two-two-three rule. Use two cups of salt to coat thinly sliced ginger for one hour or longer. You can either wipe off or shake off the salt with the aid of a strainer and place it into a clean glass jar. Melt two cups of sugar in three cups of rice vinegar in a pot and then pour the mixture on top of the ginger. You can cool the ginger quickly by placing the glass jar in a bowl of cool water, before placing it into a refrigerator. There is no need to add any red or pink food coloring as the ginger should turn pink naturally. Old ginger will not change its color however it does not seem to affect the taste of the gari at all.
Chrysanthemum and Ginger Iced Drink
Ginger is a “hot” ingredient however you can use it to cool off this summer I recommend combining ginger with dried chrysanthemum flowers which can be purchased at any Asian grocery store. Simply grate fresh ginger into boiling water (please use bottled water). You can add either plain sugar or brown sugar or even honey. Then turn off the heat and place the flowers into the liquid. Allow it to cool in the refrigerator for a few hours. You may leave a few flowers in the drink if you are serving it in a clear glass pitcher.
Grated ginger can also add a bit of zing to iced-teas.