Ginger is not just a root

by Sanjeev Kapoor

Its name in Sanskrit – srngaveram – means horn shaped which is so called because of the shape of its root. Puzzled? I am talking about ginger, which is a power house of many nutritional benefits.

You must have heard of the saying in Hindi – bandar kya jaane adrk ka swaad, which when literally translated in English would mean ‘how would a monkey know the taste of ginger?’ And that says a lot about this healthy root, doesn’t it?

History says that Queen Elizabeth I invented the gingerbread man. Ginger, as we are aware, is extensively used in sweet and savoury foods as well as in beverages. Remember ginger ale?

The magic of ginger

Ginger adds a clean fresh bite to any food, picks up the flavour of dull foods and cuts the fattiness of rich meats. Use it by itself chopped fine or grind it along with green chillies to make ginger-green chilli paste or then grind it with garlic to make ginger-garlic paste which form an important item in marinades especially so of non vegetarian items in Indian cuisine. Mixed with honey, ginger juice sooths a sore throat.

An excellent digestive, it takes the ‘gas’ out of foods that cause flatulence. A dash of ginger added to a dal or a sabzi, adds a new dimension to the food. Thin slices of tender ginger soaked in lemon juice add a wonderful taste enhancer especially as a patient who lose taste. A cupful of hot ginger tea early morning gives a wonderful start to the day.

Cut into thin strips tender ginger make a great garnish to spicy curries. Grate ginger, squeeze out the juice and add to a dressing to give it that extra pep. Kashmiri cuisine uses dried ginger powder in good measure and that gives it a distinct taste and flavour. Feeling nauseous? Chew on a ginger toffee, and feel relieved in an instant.

Where does it grow

Tropical and warm climate suits ginger, which is why it is grown abundantly in India, West Africa, West Indies, and China. Incidentally Jamaican ginger is the best.

One mature rhizome of ginger takes more than nine months to be fit for harvesting. The remainder are peeled and dried whole for the retail market and to be ground into powdered spice which is popular here as soonth.

Culinary uses

The unique pungency and sweetness of the ginger can be used to great advantage in recipes ranging from sweets to savouries.

The aroma, texture, and flavour of ginger will vary depending upon the timing of its harvest. Tender ginger is pale with a thin skin that need not to peeled before use. It has a milder flavour. Whereas mature ginger is more fibrous and spicier with a tough outer skin which needs to be peeled before use.

Dried ginger powder is used to flavour sweets, desserts and also some savoury dishes. And this juncture let me tell you that its taste is quite different from fresh ginger.

Be it Indian, Japanese, Burmese, Indonesia, Korean or Chinese cuisine, ginger is an important ingredient that adds a lot of character to the food. In fact the Japanese have a special grater for ginger (they use it for wasabi and daikon too). Called the oroshigane it differs significantly from our regular graters as it produces a much finer grating. And any good restaurant in China will have Ginger Ice Cream on the menu. Thai cuisine makes good use of galangal which looks a lot like ginger.

After reading all this, do I need to add any more to prove the goodness of ginger? 

Recommended recipes-

Seafood Soup with Chilli Ginger,  Gingerman Cookies,  Sizzling Ginger Chicken,  Gud aur Saunth Ke Goley,  Adrak Haldi ka Pickle,  Lemongrass and Ginger Tea,  Chicken with Ginger Pineapple Sauce,  Ginger Fudge

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.