Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Yum Yum for Spices: Ginger Root

Okay, how many of us thought ginger root was a root, hence the name?  I'll have to admit I did, but ginger root is not a root it is a rhizome. Rhizomes are an elongated horizontal subterranean plant stem that produces roots below and shoots above.  Its also been known as Shringavera (translates to 'shaped like a deer's antlers'), East Indian Pepper, Ground Ginger or Ginger Powder. Ginger root originated from India and their plants contain the greatest amount of genetic variation.  The greatest amount of genetic variation is due to the longer the plant has been grown in a region.

This is one of the first Oriental spices in the Western world, brought to west by fabled caravans and spice Marco Polo. The first recorded use of ginger goes as far back to ancient China and also mentioned in the Qur'an as one of the drinks of paradise.  In the 1800's barkeepers in Europe taverns put small containers of ginger on the bar for patrons to put in their beer-the origin of ginger ale.

The flavor and quality of dried ginger varies depending on where it is cultivated.  Jamaican ginger that is peeled is said to be the best and is also the most expensive because of its rarity.  African ginger tends to be unpeeled and harsh while Australian ginger has lemony undertones.

India is currently the largest distributor of ginger but its also grown in China, Nepal, Nigeria, Thailand and Indonesia.  The best grade of Indian ginger is Cochin which is partially peeled with a pungent aroma and flavored. The US ginger is grown in India and considered the Cochin grade. Ginger is recognized as a baking spice for cakes, cookies and pies.

Ginger pairs well with carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and fruits like: bananas, pineapples, pears and oranges.  It also works well with other spices such as cinnamon, cloves, paprika, nutmeg and cardamom.

While fresh ginger is much less expensive than ground, you'll need much less ground ginger in recipes and ground lasts a lot longer. 1 Tablespoon of fresh ginger equal 1/8 teaspoon of ground. It is not recommended to substitute one for the other in recipes as they have very distinct flavors.

Ginger is also good for you. Here are some of the health benefits of ginger.

One of my favorite Chinese take out dinners uses ginger, Kung Pao Chicken. But why take out when you can make this dish at home....

Serves 4


1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 teaspoon sesame or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons green onion, chopped with tops
2 gloves garlic, minced
1/4-1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup of dry roasted peanuts
4 cups cooked rice of your choice

1. Combine chicken and cornstarch, toss to coat. Heat oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet. Add chicken and stir-fry for 5-7 minutes on medium heat or until no longer pink in the center. Remove

2.  Add onions, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to wok. Stir-fry for 15 seconds then remove from heat.

3. Combine vinegar, soy sauce and sugar in a small bowl stirring well then add to skillet.  Add chicken back into skillet. Stir until chicken is well coated. Serve over rice.Yum Yum

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