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June 29, 2008

Ginger (Recipe: Thai chicken curry)

Gingerroot1

Ten things I know about ginger (you'll be glad to know them, too):

  1. The edible part of the ginger is often called ginger root, but it's actually the horizontal subterranean stem, or rhizome, of the Zingiber officinale plant. If you grow irises in your garden, you'll recognize this type of stem, which must be exposed to the surface or the plant won't flower. (Ask me how many gardening seasons it took to learn that.)
  2. China leads the world in ginger production -- almost 25% -- followed by India, Nepal and Indonesia (Jamaica produces lots of ginger, too). According to Jill Norman's Herbs & Spices, it was a staple in the diet of Confucius, but he never mentioned it to me.
  3. The word ginger comes from the Sanskrit for horn root, though I've seen more ginger rhizomes that look like Richard Nixon's nose than the animal antlers for which it was named.
  4. The Chinese and Japanese consider ginger a yang (hot) food, which balances ying foods to create harmony. Some ying foods: asparagus, tofu, broccoli, eels, pineapple, strawberries, honey, mussels, grapes, oranges. (Eels???)
  5. Choose rhizomes that have a firm, unwrinkled skin, with a slight sheen. More mature tubers, harvested later in the season, will have a stronger, sharper flavor. They should feel heavy for their size.
  6. Size doesn't matter, really. The length of a "hand" of ginger depends on where, and how, it was grown, but it's not an indication of quality. I like to buy ones that are larger than my own hand, but just because it's fun to measure them against my hand in the market. And I have small hands.
  7. Ginger isn't pink; it's a lovely tan on the outside, and the color of Bailey's Irish Cream on the inside. Grenadine gives pickled ginger its scary neon Bazooka bubble gum color.
  8. Long considered one of the world's healthiest foods, ginger is a good source of potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese and vitamin B6. It also contains protease, an enzyme that tenderizes meats, and antioxidants that retard food spoilage. Medicinally, ginger helps combat nausea, gastrointestinal distress, morning sickness, motion sickness, and high cholesterol.
  9. Store unpeeled ginger in the refrigerator, wrapped in paper towels and plastic, or in a brown paper bag, for two or three weeks. You can freeze ginger for up to six months. I admit that I never remember to freeze the excess, and some percentage of my ginger ends up in the compost pile.
  10. The longer you cook ginger, the more mellow it becomes. Like we used to say in school, compare and contrast; use a single large hand of ginger to make pork and broccoli stir fry, ginger salmon tartare, meatballs with ginger and radish greens, tofu in coconut sauce with ginger and lemongrass, white chili, ginger-and-cardamom poached pears, and white chocolate and ginger ice cream.

Thai chicken curry

Another great recipe adapted from Fine Cooking Annual, Volume 2. Cooks up quickly, and tastes great served with jasmine rice. Serves 4.

Ingredients

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1-1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (approx. 2 medium)
1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger root
1-2 tsp Thai red curry paste
2 cups chicken broth
1 13.5-oz can unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tbsp fish sauce (I use Three Crabs brand)
1-1/2 cups sugar snap peas (fresh or frozen)
1 large lime, zest finely grated and fruit cut into wedges
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

Heat the oil in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and sear the meat in batches until lightly browned all over. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the shallots to the pan and cook until just tender and lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Add the ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in 1/4 of the broth, scraping up any browned bits that are stuck to the pan. Add 1/3 cup of the coconut milk, stirring to blend in the curry paste. Add remaining coconut milk, broth and fish sauce. Increase the heat to medium high, and return the chicken to the pan (along with any juices on the plate). Stir and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, 7-8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the peas and cover the pan. Let sit for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the lime zest. If necessary, return the pan to medium heat to cook the peas. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges, over rice.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Ginger catfish
Ginger salad dressing
Green chicken curry with eggplant
Faux pho
Rhubarb-apricot chutney

Comments

Thanks Lydia for all this information, ginger is of of my favourites and I find it very interesting how I without knowing it have combined it with yin food! Is that ginger intuition? Or more probably just by accident

This sounds wonderful - I don't see broth in the ingredient list - how much do you use?

Ginger is one of those MUST-HAVE at all times items, like lemons. Love the sound of your recipe...

Ilva, I'm a believer in ginger intuition -- but I also think it pairs well with almost anything. I have to admit that I haven't tried it with eels. Yet.

Kathy, thanks for the catch. Two cups of broth, and I've corrected the recipe.

Ann, yes yes yes -- and ginger with lemons is even better. Ginger-lemon iced tea? Amazing!

Hi, Lydia,

I also store ginger in the ground in my garden. At least in the summer. I just take regular ole ginger from the store, dig a little hole in the earth and bury it. It keeps growing (and does eventually sprout beautiful flowers). Whenever I need ginger, I dig it up, break off a piece and bury it again.

I'm looking forward to ginger week: I assume you'll do powdered and candied and preserved (sushi bar) ginger and their uses. And maybe a little more history.

I made your rhubarb chutney recently -- substituted candied ginger for fresh. I haven't tasted it yet as I always age chutney for 2 weeks until the flavors mature.

I once had a fabulous gingerbread recipe that used both powdered AND candied ginger.

I never knew that you could freeze ginger. That will change my habits in the future! Love the big gnarly photo!

I remember seeing a show on FN about 10 years ago... I don't remember what show, but the host went into houses and cooked meals with home cooks? Anyway, the woman in this episode was from Hawaii, and she said that she hates throwing ginger away, so what she does is peel the ginger, cut it into in smallish chunks and put it in a jar of vodka in the fridge. I've thrown away more ginger than I care to admit, so I gave it a shot and have never looked back. This treatment mellows the ginger a bit, but I compensate by using a bit more than called for in the recipe. Also, the texture changes a tiny bit, making it easier to grate. Give it a shot!

PS Don't use the Grey Goose. :)

I love Ginger! One of my favorite ingredients! This looks excellent...i've been trying my hands at curries lately...will have to add this to the list! :)

Hi Lydia,

I've been meaning to ask... in the two years of your blog, have you yet covered your entire pantry? Are you adding things on a regular basis?

I love ginger! I do freeze mine, but then I forget I have it and buy more. I've also had good luck with the chinese "ground ginger" in some dishes, although a ginger purist would not approve. Love the comment above about burying it, then digging up the root when you need more. Looking forward to ginger week.

Only since I've been blogging have I come to enjoy ginger but I love it now and hardly ever have it go to waste any more. But I find that comment of storing it in the garden (ground) so intriguing I really will have to buy some just to do that.

A neat convenience food is ginger & garlic paste (current jar from SWAD, found in Indian groceries. It's used in recipes from Indian in 6, by Monisha Bharadwaj. And instead of vodka, I've kept ginger in sherry. Now -- will it bloom if planted in New Hampshire? (Maybe just potted.)

Ah yes, fresh ginger! I always have a few nobs in the freezer ready to use!

Julia, I'm so intrigued (and so are other readers, as you can see from the comments)! You know I am going to try this after I visit your garden and see how you've done it. Wonderful tip!

Mae, there are two more ginger posts ahead this week. Last year I did post a recipe for a kicked-up gingerbread, made from a mix (gasp!), with powdered ginger and crystallized ginger added. It's remarkably delicious. Here's the link: http://www.theperfectpantry.com/2007/07/crystallized-gi.html

TW, thanks -- I'm trying to improve my photos here.

Lauren, I've never tried that, but it's a super idea. What kind or brand of vodka works best?

Ginny, it's one of my husband's favorite flavors, too. I'm trying to use it more because it so good for overall health.

Julia, I try to give equal time to all the things in my pantry that meet these criteria: must be used as an ingredient (not merely a condiment); must be something I use more than once, or in more than one way, or in the same way but over and over again. So there are many things in my fridge, cupboards, etc., that I won't post about here. But I post at regular intervals about everything else. And yes, I must admit, I'm always adding, as I discover new ingredients. But I'm subtracting too....

Kalyn, I really have to get organized about freezing my ginger -- though of course I'm going to try burying some in the garden to see how that goes. I'll report on it.

MyKitchen, me too!

Susan, the first time I heard of GGC (is that right? Ginger, garlic, cilantro.) was from an Indian cook I interviewed many years ago. I'll look for this brand on my next run to the Indian spice store in Providence. And yes, if it will grow in Boston, it will grow in NH. I think!

Joe, am I the last person to get with the freezing ginger program? I really, really have to be more organized! What are some of your favorite ginger dishes?

Lydia, I love ginger and love this post! One of my favorite uses for ginger is ginger tea - either steeped fresh or in ready-made tea bags, it helps near-instantly when you've got an iffy stomach. Another great ginger trick is candied ginger for airsickness or seasickness. Can you tell I come from a long line of Pepto-Bismol drinkers?

ginger WEEK! that´s too exciting. I love it.

Ginger is one of my favourite food ingredients and I can take it in any form - like preserved, stir fried or made into tea :D~

Ginger is something we should always have in your pantry!
Your curry would be perfect on one cold evening for dinner, yumms!

Lydia, what a coincidence! I first used ginger in my kitchen last Saturday!

I cannot wait for this series! I adore Ginger and have added it to my hot tea on many occasions. It really adds a nice zip to a variety of dishes and lends itself well to a surprising array of cuisines.

BTW, the first sentence on #6 cracked me up. For a minute, I thought you might be playing Dr. Ruth! ;-)

Thank you for all the fun facts about ginger! I'm a ginger lover myself...especially on sushi and in all sorts of sauces. Can't get enough! (For the record, one thing I don't like is candied ginger.)

Marilyn, ginger tea is wonderful -- I love it with lemon or honey. Now we have to find you some ginger recipes for the times when nobody has an upset stomach!

Lobstersquad, stay tuned -- more ginger to come.

Noobcook, if that's the case, you'll love the rest of the week....

Stella, I love curry all year round. The hotter the weather, the more hot pepper I add to my curries. Go figure.

Patricia, really, first time? What wonderful thing did you make?

Sandie, now Dr. Ruth's squeaky voice is echoing in my head and I can't get rid of it. She cracks me up.

Hillary, I'm especially fond of ginger with fruit and in fruit salads, but also in curries, of course, and in Chinese stir fry. Oh, and I love ginger ale, too!

I love ginger. I pretty well always store it in the freezer and then grate it with my microplane when I need it, which is even easier to do when it's frozen.
The curry sounds delicious!

Ginger! I love ginger! I use it a lot in my cooking. Here in Taiwan, they use ginger a lot in their cooking. Garlic + ginger + green onions are like the formidable trio esp in stir fries.

Ginger indeed is a wonder-food. Coming from a chinese background, we believe in the cold and hot of foods. I am mostly Ying and I need a lot of the hot foods to balance me. Also, there is a Filipino concoction called salabat, that I remember was recommended to drink before our class goes to a singing competition...

I love ginger; ginger cheesecake is our traditional Christmas dessert. Having moved from a metropolitan area to a small city in the middle of nowhere I find it difficult to pay supermarket prices for ginger. When I return, once a year, to our old neighbourhood I always visit the little Indian market to stock up on spices, and wonderful fresh ginger. Peeled, and submerged in vodka or light rum it will keep at least a year, no refrigeration needed (I have had perfectly decent ginger from a jar of vodka after several years). Any liquor will do, but vodka and light rum are less likely to mess with the flavor of the ginger. And I always have it on hand in the pantry. Ginger, honey, and lemon make a very soothing drink, with hot water, when one feels a sore throat or cold coming on.

I made a blueberry lemon jam, to use as a filling for cake, yum!

Brilynn, great tip about grating frozen ginger. I promise to reform and start freezing my ginger now. Do you peel before you freeze it?

Tigerfish, I love "trinities", like the Cajun trinity of onion, celery and green pepper -- any combination of three ingredients really appeals to me.

Veron, I've never heard of salabat. I'm guessing it's a ginger concoction that soothes the throat? I'll look it up and learn more.

Una, ginger cheesecake sounds divine. I often make lemon tea with ginger and honey when I have a sore throat, too.

Patricia, sounds delicious!

The title alone has me drooling...Ginger...spicy...curry!
Have you cooked with galanga? It's a great alternative to ginger when you want something a little spicier and tangier!

WORC, I have used galanga (or galangal). I love it, but as I don't live quite close to a good Asian market, it's not that easy to come by and I've gotten used to using regular ginger instead.

Lydia - I am loving ginger week. I gave up original Altoids for the ginger ones. I have a friend in Hawaii who sends me this amazing fresh chewy ginger candy. And I always have a nob or two handy in the pantry. I decided to comment here because the cookie recipe I want to share uses fresh gingerroot versus powdered or crystallized. These are a refreshing change from a regular ginger snap - the cornstarch gives a great crumbly texture - and just as spicy.

Marlene's Ginger Cookies
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups margarine
3 T honey
1 T finely grated ginger
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup corn starch
2 cups flour
Cream sugar and margarine. Add honey, ginger, and egg and mix well. Sift dry ingredients together and mix into sugar mixture. Roll into balls a little bigger than a marble and bake in a hot oven til just beginning to brown.

Peter, thanks so much for this recipe -- one can never have too many great ginger cookies in one's repertoire! I love ginger and honey together. Will pass this on to the husband, who is our resident cookie baker.

just found out that ginger makes water or vinegar turn pink when you leave it in there for long enough, so maybe the pink colour of ginger preserves comes from that? my mug of ginger tea sitting next to me (made with fresh ginger) has just turned pink! made me think back to your list of ginger-things! :)

Angela, fascinating -- I will add this into my next ginger post. Oh, the things I learn from readers. Thank you!

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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