From adrak chai we down by the gallon to almost every dish we eat, ginger is an indelible part of the Indian kitchen. No surprise then that India is one of the largest producers of ginger! Chefs and cooks especially understand the value of our farmers! Where would we be without the fabulous fresh produce that is the cornerstone of our cooking? And it is up to cooks and chefs like us to support farmers.
90% (if not more) Indian recipes will call for ginger in some form; as a paste, grated, chopped fine, julienned, dried or powdered. It is part of the triumvirate of flavor along with garlic and chillies that is at the base of all dishes. In fact, many cuisines and dishes that avoid garlic and onion might still use ginger.
There is no doubt that ginger can work in conjunction with other flavours. But why relegate this ingredient to always being the extra and never the hero? Bring it out of the shadow of other ingredients and give ita chance! Ginger can be a dominant flavour with elaan, offering limitless options as an ingredient. The spicy aromatic notes of ginger can hold their own with any flavour profile from savoury to sweet. In fact, I can safely say there are very few fruits or vegetables that do not pair well with ginger in some form. And ginger also has a natural affinity to meats, poultry, and fish.
The first of the tender young ginger is now available in the market. I just pickled some with ambahaldi and chillies in salt and lime juice. Young ginger with its tangy citrusy freshness has a light spiciness and mellow sweetness that makes it gently warming and ideal to complement a range of raw and lightly cooked dishes. Either finely julienne or dice and sprinkle a little over north Indian chaats, salads or add at the end of cooking to stir-fries, light broths and soups and fruit fillings for desserts. At this stage it is also ideal to candy and nibble on through the coming winter. Trust me and candy some; chopped candied ginger will be handy in a myriad ways through the Christmas baking month!
As it matures, ginger gets harder, more fibrous and spicier. At this stage it might be too stringy to candy, and too spicy to eat raw but is ideal for long cooking. Chop, crush, grate or puree and add to marinades, long cooking soups, stews, curries and roasts; giving its flavours a chance to truly open up into the dishes. It is also ideal to make a spicy ginger cordial to refresh you in the summer and spike cocktails and monsoon/winter warmers with as required.
Ginger is also available dried, either as whole roots or powdered. The roots retain flavours longer so buy those and powder as required. In its powdered form, dried ginger is at its spiciest best and a little goes a long way. Intrinsic to the saunth chutney of the North and the chai masala that spices the famed Gujarati masala chai, powdered ginger is ideal for adding warming spicy notes to meat rubs, chutneys, baked treats, and slow cooked dishes. Ginger can also be infused into milk and cream to make moreish custards, crème brulee or ice creams.
Here is a favourite recipe with ginger:
Pineapple Ginger Chicken
Time: 45 minutes
For the Chicken
1 chicken breast, pounded thin, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup cornstarch
1tsp garlic powder
½ tspred chili powder
1tsp ginger powder
½ tsp white pepper powder
For the Sauce
¼ cup pineapple juice
3tbsp white wine vinegar
1tsp brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cupginger juice (grate 1 cup ginger, squeeze for juice. Gratings can be used later.)
1tsp red chili powder
½ tsp salt
3tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
2tbsp spring onion greens, chopped
Addall the ingredients except the chicken and oilintp a large zip lock bag and mix well to combine.
Add the chicken pieces and toss until evenly coated.
Heat the oil over a medium flame in a large non-stick pan.
Add the coated chicken and cook for 2 minutes undisturbed then continue to stir fry until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.
For the Sauce
Heat the oil in a small pan over a medium flame.
Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds.
Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine.
Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the sauce thickens (approximately 3 minutes).
In a large bowl, toss the cooked chicken with the sauce using a spatula until evenly coated.
Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and chopped spring onion.
Serve immediately over rice.
Author Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal is a gastronome, author, menu consultant, food historian and teacher. One of India’s pioneering food bloggers, she is an expert in Indian and World cuisines she has a keen understanding of ingredients and flavour combinations. She is committed toinspiring people, especially children, to cook, through her many endeavours as owner of A Perfect Bite® Consulting, a premier food consulting firm and APB Cook Studio® , India's first kitchen studio.
(This article was first published on https://rushinamunshawghildiyal.blogspot.in)