Food profile: the ginger

[1] One very important ingredient in many South East Asian cuisines. 

 

Welcome back again, o’reader. I am digressing from the purely history, politics and international relations related articles to a more readable topic. I am returning to the food profile and this time analysing the origin, properties, history of the spice itself and a few recipes to finish it off. As usual, if you think there is something that can be improved, then feel free to comment below. Otherwise, I hope you have an enjoyable time on my blog once again!

 

The ginger, a bizarre-looking spice looking rather like a clustered bunch of insects. Admittedly, it is not the most appetising ingredient ever, but what you can do with it might convert you! It is believed that the ginger was first recorded by the Indians as Sanshrit, which translates as “horn root”, effectively describing its shape and form. [2] This was a very common spice in tropical Asia, used initially by the Indians during the 4th century A.D onwards in meat dishes, drinks and pastes. Through trade by Arab merchants, the spice was extensively brought to Asia and Africa during the 13th and  14th century. [3] Similarly, Marco Polo, through his travels eastwards in Asia and particularly in China, brought ginger back to Europe, a once vanished delicacy from the fall of the Roman Empire. [2]

 

As mentioned above, the ginger is a herb, spice and medicine. It can be a remedy to boundless diseases or minor problems like: stomach and bowel problems, diarrhoea, nausea, coughing, reduces chances of diabetes and osteoporosis, improves health in case of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. [4, 5] This is because one of the main essential oils, gingerols, is effective with its anti-inflammatory, pain-killing and anti-bacterial properties in the intestines. Moreover, it has a chemical compound called zingerone, useful as anti-bacterial element against E. coli found primarily in diarrhoea. [6]

 

Whether it is Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Malaysian or Indian, the ginger is the rock star of the show. Below is a traditional Thai green and red curry paste you can easily make. You could add any meat you like to it – be it pork, chicken, beef or fish. If you prefer it as a vegetarian dish, why not try bell peppers, potatoes, spring onion or carrots? Apart from this very orthodox stance, I have also provided some new ideas to cure your sore throat or as a simple Chinese dessert.

 

Green/Red Thai curry paste 

1 stalk of lemon-grass

1 small piece of ginger

3 tablespoons of fish sauce

2-3 green/red chili (depending on your spicy level tolerance)

1/4 of lime juice

1 teaspoon of brown sugar

2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup of coriander

(+2 tablespoons of tomato purée – if you decide to make your red Thai curry paste)

 

[7, 8]

 

Medicine/Simple Chinese dessert/dish

Traditionally speaking in Chinese cuisine, like the garlic clove as I wrote before, you can boil a small portion of chopped ginger with some rock sugar until the sugar has dissolved. This is a herbal drink to clear your coughing and throat problems. Very simple and cheap – I highly recommend it!

 

With this in mind, you can expand this syrup with boiling some tong yuen or glutinous rice balls (usually filled with sweet peanut, red bean or black sesame stuffings)!

 

If you prefer savoury foods, you could always use ginger apart from your onions and garlic in your first stages of stir-frying or even for marinating your meats or fish, whichever you prefer! Here is an example:

 

Meat marinade

2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons of light soy sauce

Small portion of ginger

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon of caster sugar

1 teaspoon of corn flour or starch

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Chili flakes (if you like it spicy!) 

 

How to choose a ginger 

In order to choose the best piece of ginger, try to search for a shiny and earthy looking ginger, with a good smell. However, if you find it to be too wrinkled or dry, that is a no-go!

 

In conclusion, the ginger is a very Asian ingredient that is used widely in curry pastes and simple meat or vegetable dishes, across the continent since the ancient times in India. Through trade, this ingredient expanded to across the world, making it a popular yet a delicacy for savoury and sweet dishes. Moreover, apart from this, it is advantageous of consuming ginger, as it consists of critical essential oils or chemicals like gingerol and zignerone, its cleansing, anti-bacterial and pain-killing properties, it is a flexible ingredient that can be used many Asian or European recipes. Right, that is it from me this time round – I hope you enjoyed your read and see you next time! 🙂 Be sure to comment below if you think it can be improved.

References

[1] http://www.larkcrafts.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Ginger1.jpeg

[2] http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/gingerhistory.htm

[3] http://www.kew.org/plant-cultures/plants/ginger_history.html

[4] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/961.html

[5] http://www.healthaliciousness.com/vegetables/ginger.php

[6] http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/ginger-root.html

[7] http://thaifood.about.com/od/thaicurrypasterecipes/r/greencurrypaste.htm

[8] http://thaifood.about.com/od/thaicurrypasterecipes/r/redpaste.htm

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