Thursday, 15 November 2007

Think Spice...Think Ginger

Ginger is one of the most widespread culinary spices. It is also among the most important and valued spices. No one is sure how old ginger is but it is believed to be cultivated for more than 3000 years. Ginger seems to originate from Southern China. Today, it is cultivated all over tropic and subtropical Asia.

This noble condiment comes from a perennial creeping herbaceous plant that produces an erect stem of 30 to 100 cm in height. The stem is surrounded by the sheathing bases of the bright green lance-shaped two-ranked leaves of 15 to 20 cm long, with a prominent longitudinal rib, enclosing conical clusters of a small club-like spike of yellow-green purple-lipped flowers. The gnarled, bumpy root of the ginger plant is the source of this wonderful spice. Although often called “ginger root”, it is actually a rhizome. Rhizomes are knobby thick tuberous underground stems that have pungent and flavourful flesh. The large thick scaly ginger rhizome has a characteristic stag horn-like appearance. It branches with thick thumb-like protrusions, thus individual divisions of the rhizome are known as "hands".

Fresh ginger is available in two forms; young and mature. Young ginger, also known as spring ginger, has a pale, thin skin that does not require peeling. It is very tender and has a milder flavour than its mature form. Mature ginger has a tough tan to brown skin that has to be carefully peeled away to preserve the delicate flesh just beneath it. The flesh ranges from pale greenish yellow to ivory in colour. Ginger has a slightly biting and hot note along with peppery and slightly sweet flavour. Its aroma is rich, sweet, warm, pungent, spicy and woody. Whole raw ginger is generally referred to as fresh ginger. It provides the freshest taste. Ginger also comes in dried form. It is sold either ‘black’ with the skin left on, or ‘white’ with the skin peeled off. The dried ginger is available whole or sliced. Powdered ginger is the buff-coloured ground dried ginger. It has fiery and pungent flavour and has warm, sweet and pungent aroma.

When buying fresh ginger, look for mature plump rhizomes with smooth skin that are not wrinkled. Wrinkled skin indicates that the root is dry and past its prime. It should have a fresh and spicy fragrance. Tightly wrapped fresh unpeeled ginger could be refrigerated in the crisper for up to 3 weeks and frozen for up to 6 months. Dried and powdered ginger must be stored in airtight containers.

Ginger is truly a world domestic remedy. It is most commonly known for its effectiveness as a digestive aid. Ginger has been used in Asia for thousands of years for relief from arthritis, rheumatism, sprains, muscle spasms, catarrh, congestion, coughs, sinusitis, sore throats, diarrhea, colic, cramps, indigestion, loss of appetite, motion sickness, fever, flu, chills, and infectious disease. Its therapeutic properties effectively stimulate circulation of the blood, removing toxins from the body, cleansing the bowels and kidneys, and nourishing the skin. Ginger is also used to treat nausea related to both motion sickness and morning sickness. Other uses for ginger include the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems by loosening and expelling phlegm from the lungs.

Ginger is extremely versatile. It could be used in any type of food. Ginger is used as a spice throughout the world. In Asian cooking, ginger is almost always used fresh. In savoury dishes, it pairs beautifully with garlic. Dried ginger should be ‘bruised’ by beating it to open the fibres, and then infused in the cooking.

Ginger is my staple spice without which I can never even imagine of cooking. As my entry for the Think Spice Event, I have made one of my favourite Malaysian desserts. This dessert is apt for the climate as it is now continuously snowing in Bern. Originaly this dessert does not call for ginger but I have incorporated it to enhance the taste. I have used both fresh and dried ginger. Actually, both have noticeably different flavours. Therefore, I have used them together in the same dish for a layered flavour.

Gingery Mung Bean Dessert

What do we need:

1/2 cup mung beans
2 cups water
1 cup milk or coconut milk
1/3 cup sugar (or more if desired)
1/4 cup sago
1/2 inch knob ginger, sliced
1/2 tsp ginger powder
2 screw pine leaves, knotted

How do we do it:

Soak the mung beans for about 2 hours and drain.

Combine mung beans, knotted screw pine leaves, ginger and water. Bring to a boil for 20 minutes. Gradually stir in the sago and cook until it is transparent.

Add sugar, salt, ginger powder and milk. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until the beans are soft and the liquid has reduced to half. Remove from heat.

Serve Gingery Mung Bean Dessert warm. The ginger gives a delicate warm flavour to it.

Also check out an amazingly aromatic Ginger Rice.


Kribha said...

It's a new recipe to me but it looks yummy.

Asha said...

Great idea to add ginger to dessert!:))

Linda said...

Wow Pushpa, lovely write up about ginger, and lovely looking dessert :)

Lissie said...

unique recipe! the dessert sounds healthy an delicious... :)

Anonymous said...

gingery mung bean dessert looks interesting:)

sunita said...

Thanks P, for whipping up this very creative dessert.

Menu Today said...

Hi Pushpha,
Dessert with ginger flavour!!!
Very new to me, thanks for sharing.

Little Corner of Mine said...

Looks so thick and delish! Like your extra touch of ginger.

aparna said...

Interesting. Looks like a ginger flavoured payasam/kheer.

Vcuisine said...

It's a unique idea Pushpa. Nice entry. Viji

Puspha said...

Thank u very much everybody.

rokh said...

wanted to joing this event but was too busy, but yours looks good ;) might try it out myself because i love ginger!

Laavanya said...

This is such an awesome dessert. I must get the red mung beans soon and try this.

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