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Myrna Mack, The Epoch Times

Chinese cooking places emphasis on the harmonious blending of colour, aroma, flavor, and texture in the many varied dishes prepared for a meal.

Balance and contrast are said to be the key words in Chinese cooking and this is based on the ancient Taoist philosophy of ying and yang. The wife or husband who loves cooking, a cook and a professional chef will all keep these principles in mind when preparing a dish.

One fresh ingredient integral to Chinese cooking is ginger, an aromatic, pungent rhizome that is native to Asia. The Chinese consider ginger to be yang, or sharp, which balances the cold food, ying, to create harmony. It certainly adds a special zest and flavour to many dishes.

Young ginger roots are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste. They are available year round in your local market or supermarket. The young roots are often pickled in vinegar and eaten as a snack. Mature ginger roots are fibrous and almost dry. The juice from old ginger roots is extremely potent and is often used in Chinese cooking to flavour seafood or mutton.

The Indians and Chinese have used ginger for thousands of years, both as a food and a universal medicine for treating indigestion, fever and infections, and promoting vitality and longevity. During the fifth century ginger was added to sailors food to prevent seasickness and scurvy.

Studies suggest it can also help relieve pain and inflammation.

In Japan, ginger is marinated with sushi and sashimi . In the west, ground dried ginger is used to flavour pies, cakes, desserts and biscuits, particularly gingerbread men! Crystallised ginger is also popular, sold in various strengths, from mild to hot, and of course ginger is the main flavour in ginger ale and ginger beer.

To make a simple ginger tea, pour boiling water over one-quarter teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger. Allow to steep for 5 minutes and strain before drinking. Add honey or sliced orange or lemon to taste.

Unpeeled ginger will last for a week wrapped in a paper bag and stored in the vegetable crisper in the fridge. If you want to keep ginger for longer, peel, cover with sherry or vodka and place in a sealed jar. Ginger stored in this manner will last up to three months.

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