How to cook with ginger
How to cook with ginger and love the results of your culinary effortsGinger adds flavor, aroma and depth to a dish, giving some a distinctive kick and others a soothing, mellow earthiness. This is a staple spice for anyone who loves to experiment with Asian flavors, try gourmet food or simply feel inspired by this sharp, versatile spice. Taste it in its raw form and you'll see why it takes so many forms – candied, tea, powder and paste ginger.
This popular spice has several healing properties well known among Ayurvedic practitioners. It soothes an upset stomach and aids digestion by breaking down proteins and fatty foods. It stimulates circulation, which relaxes the muscles and helps to lower blood pressure. Other studies have shown that it limits the blood and liver from absorbing cholesterol.
How to cook with ginger
As with any super spice, using ginger in its freshest form gives you maximum flavor and health benefits because the active compounds are at their greatest. In the produce aisle, this fresh root will have a bright, almost lemony scent. It should feel smooth and firm – wrinkles indicate that it's drying up.
Wait to peel and prep the ginger until you're ready to use it. First you need to peal off the bark. Then it's decision time. This root can be grated, pureed, chopped, sliced or used in any other way you can imagine. Consider whether you want the spice to also add texture to your dish, in a stir-fry for instance, or if you only want to infuse the flavors in an easy soup or curry.
When ginger is one of several spices used to create a sauce, grate it. Grating the root cuts down on the fibrous texture and brings out its sweet, peppery taste. You can save yourself some work and pick up a jar of ginger paste at an Asian grocery, if you find yourself mostly grating the fresh root anyway.
For a broth, cut the pealed root into disks. This also cuts through the fibers so your broth will be smooth, and makes it easy to strain out the large pieces before serving. Disks add visual variation to a couscous or rice dish, but big pieces can be off-putting. Not everybody loves the shock of biting into what looks like a water chestnut, but takes over your mouth with its chewy acidity.
If you want to use it as a star in the dish while balancing the overall flavor, slice the root into thin bite-size sticks. Whether you're making tomato or curry sauce, add them early on in the process. Simmer it with oil, onions and garlic to soften the texture and complement its flavors with other pungent ingredients. Your kitchen will smell incredible.
Once you get on a full kick, you stop asking how to cook with ginger and start finding ways to add it to everything. It's bold taste is addictive. Here are a few ways to satisfy these cravings:
- Grate fresh root into cool whip and spread generously on a cookie or add a dollop to your ice cream. Making lemon cake or pumpkin cookies? Sneak in some ginger to send them over the top.
- It's pizza-making night and you want something a little different. Skip the pepperoni and get on the garlic ginger chicken pizza bandwagon.
- Something magical happens when you add a spoonful of minced ginger to garlic, soy sauce and fresh chilies. It's called the joys of making your own Chinese-inspired concoctions. Try it with eggplant and ground peanuts, or tossed in a simple stir-fry with bell peppers, snow peas and carrots.
- Throw in a 1-inch lump of pealed root the next time you make a pumpkin or lentil soup. Add a little clove and cardamom or allspice to enhance the warming flavors with an earthy sweetness.
The only way to go wrong when learning how to cook with ginger is by adding too much of this good thing. If the spice is fairly new to you, remember that a little goes a long way. You rarely need to add more than 1-1 ½ inches of root (depending on the thickness) to any dish.