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Ginger, the Warming Root, Gaining Popularity
Ginger root has many uses
Johann Fleck, The Epoch Times
11/27/2008

The root of the ginger plant has many uses. The light brown powder from the dried rhizome of the Zingibar officinale plant that Europeans are familiar with, is sold fresh in many areas of the world. Chief exporters are India, China, parts of Africa, Jamaica, and Brazil. It is characterized by its lemon-like fragrance and its sharp, biting but warming flavor.

Qualities of the root differ greatly, depending on the country of origin. The most intensely fragrant ginger, with a well-rounded aroma and flavor, comes from Jamaica. Chinese ginger distinguishes itself by its pronounced taste, and Nigerian ginger can only be said to be sharp.

Ginger Root, a Winter Companion

Ginger is a great winter companion, as it gently warms up the body. It is one of the most prolifically used seasoning agents in Asia, and the way ginger is used in cooking varies greatly. Cooks in Southeast Asia frequently grate fresh ginger root over a finished dish to impart its excellent flavor and fragrance. In Chinese cooking, dishes that require longer cooking times contain larger pieces of ginger. When stir-frying in a wok, grated or finely minced ginger is preferred.

Cooks in ginger-producing countries rarely use powdered ginger from a spice jar because it loses its original punch. By contrast, Middle European cooks use dried ginger powder quite a bit, particularly in small cakes and cookies. Ginger is even part of the classic French spice mixture quatre espices. Other spices in this four-spice mix are ground cloves, nutmeg, and large quantities of ground white pepper.

The mixture imparts a delicious flavor to meats requiring longer cooking, such as stews, ragouts, and pot roasts, but is also elegant in sausage mixtures and savory pies. Quatre espices is the perfect seasoning for anything, any time one wants to enhance the flavor of pepper in a subtle way.

Ginger Root Important to Many Dishes

Ginger, a personal favorite, is an important addition to many dishes. When my wife and I want to prepare something tasty, warming, and satisfying, we often cook a Thai specialty called Tom Ka Gai, a soup. We eat this as the main meal, accompanied by steamed, long-grain rice.

Tom Ka Gai (serves 4)

Ingredients:

1 chicken breast filet
1 can (13 oz.) coconut milk
2 pieces ginger, each the size of a quarter
1 green chili pepper pod
3 cups of chicken stock
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce, (also called nam pla)
1 small bunch fresh cilantro (Chinese parsley), chopped
Method:

Cut the chicken breast into fine strips

Cut the ginger against the fibers into small strips

Place the ginger, chicken stock, and coconut milk into a heavy pot and bring to the boil.

Simmer slowly for 10 minutes.

Remove the seeds from the chili pod, cut the pod into julienne strips and add it and the chicken to the pot.

Increase the heat and let the mixture boil up once while stirring.

Immediately season with sugar and fish sauce.

Serve in soup bowls, sprinkled with the fresh cilantro. Serve rice on the side.

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