001: Ginger is forever!

Prateek Thakker | Suman Prasad

The monsoon is just kicking in and with that, we are soon going to be engulfed in chilly nights and sneezy evenings. This will bring an opportunity for our mothers to don their superhero capes and whip up a hot cup of adrak wali chai or an adrak ka kadha to help warm up our body and drive away the flu. 

Why are we telling you this? Because that “Adrak” or Ginger that has for centuries helped kill off many common ailments- from Common flu to a sore throat and flatulence, has so much more to it than just being an ingredient with medicinal properties. 

Ginger first appeared in the southern parts of ancient China. From there, it spread to India, Maluku Islands (so-called Spice Islands), rest of the Asia and West Africa. Europe saw ginger for the first time in the 1st century when the ancient Romans traded with India. When Rome fell, Europe forgot about ginger until Marco Polo brought it again from his travel to the East. In the Middle Ages, a price of a half a kilogram of ginger was the same as of one sheep. In the 15th century, with the rediscovery of the New World, Ginger was brought to the Caribbean where it started to grow with ease. Today, India is the greatest producer of ginger in the world. 

Though a silent protector in your kitchens, the ginger packs a punch in everything you add it to. From a palate cleanser with Japanese dishes to tangy candies and spicy Ginger chocolates, you have it all. Did you know that you can make some fine wine with Ginger too? 

Image Credit: Pixabay

Talking about what makes ginger an essential element in the kitchen, Ashley D’Souza, Corporate Executive Chef at Shilton Hospitality says, “Ginger is the one ingredient that satisfies both requirements of pungency and aroma in cooking. These two unique qualities of the root give it a characteristic feature that one cannot do without in the kitchen.”

As Tanmoy Majumder, Executive Chef, at DoubleTree Suites by Hilton rightly puts out, there is no flavour and fragrance in the world quite like that of ginger. “It is hot, zesty, biting yet sweet and warm with a slight woody flavour. Apart from having great medicinal value, ginger has a multipurpose use in the kitchen starting from curries, sweets, drinks, hot beverage, candy and cookies among others,” says Majumder.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Ginger is primarily used as a flavour element in Indian cuisine. However, with the advent of food reality shows, increasing acceptance of different cultures and willingness to experiment, chefs from across the world are lately pushing their creative envelope, thereby incorporating ginger as a hero element in their food.

“Fresh ginger has a tangy freshness that pairs well with a broad range of flavours from sweet to savoury. It is for this reason that ginger has become a favourite ingredient among chefs from the regions especially US, China, Japan and Thailand who use it to prepare vegetables, meats, poultry, fish and maple syrup,” says Majumder.

In the kitchen of Rajesh Dubey, Chief of Cuisine at Speciality Restaurants Ltd. there are many dishes where Ginger is used as a hero element. One of the most popular items in his Chinese restaurant is Duck with Pineapple and Pickled Ginger. Another popular Cantonese dish is Shredded Chicken with Ginger and Spring Onions.  

Ginger has always been looked upon as a savoury ingredient. However, with modern cooking leading the charge, chefs are redefining the traditional uses of ingredients in the food. In the case of ginger, it is being used as a core ingredient in a sweet dish or even cocktails and wines. 

Image Credit: Pixabay

Akshraj Jodha, Executive Chef at ITC Windsor has worked with ginger in the sweet form. He adds, “We make Adrak Halwa during winters where the main ingredient is the fresh Ginger. Additionally, in different countries, Ginger is also being used in sweets such as candied ginger.”

Recounting her experience from South East Asia, Rupa Balachandar, Food show host and Editor of G2K, says, “We had access to an abundance of tender ginger which was crisp, had absolutely no fibres and was very mild, so I used to make a ginger candy with them that also doubled up as a digestive after a heavy meal”.

Image Credit: Pixabay

At DoubleTree Suites by Hilton, Majumder uses ginger as a sweet element in Carrot, Ginger and Walnut Muffin. He adds, “Additionally, I am a big enthusiast of candied ginger as a garnish that livens up so many of my sweet creations like cream caramel, stewed pineapple with ginger and ginger & cinnamon ice cream.”

“Ginger, when dried and converted into a powder, has lower pungency and the spicy-sweet aroma goes well with palm sugar, caramel, and coconut peanut among others", says Sachin Doke, Executive chef, at Levitate Brewery. He has worked on his version of the ginger cake, celebrating ginger as a hero ingredient.

Ginger has been used in bars from a long time, quips Bhojraj Sharma, F&B Manager at DoubleTree Suites by Hilton. “Combinations like ginger-honey, ginger-mint, ginger-lemon, ginger-orange, ginger-rose, ginger-cranberry are commonly used in bars for making mocktails and cocktails", adds Sharma. 

DoubleTree is coming up with a new rooftop restaurant very soon and plans to introduce several ginger inspired drinks.

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