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What is ginger? (Tips on how to use this spice)

One of the most essential spices out there, ginger is a must-have for every kitchen. If you’re planning on experimenting with Asian cuisine, it’ll be near impossible to make any dish without the help of ginger. 

That’s because it adds an element of flavor and spice that is unique and enhances anything that it’s a part of. 

The more you use ginger, the easier it will be for you to identify its particular taste in any food item. It’s also famous for being very versatile.

 You can use it in both kinds of dishes—sweet or savory. In fact, it’s also used in different beverages such as tea and lemonade.

Ginger, scientifically known as zingiber officinale, is a plant whose root is used as a spice in a number of cuisines. When people say a recipe calls for ginger, they’re referring to the root of the plant. 

Ginger is originally from Southeast Asia, which explains why a wide range of Asian foods has it as a vital part of their ingredients. 

What Does Ginger Taste Like?

Ginger has a very specific taste that immediately changes the way any dish tastes. It’s a combination of hot and spicy, but with a tinge of sweetness and a warm aftertaste.

It has a slightly woody flavor as well—because it’s a root. This lessens the intensity of the ginger spice. 

However, anyone who’s had ginger will tell you it’s very pungent as well. That’s why you only need a dash of it to liven up any recipe.

Although you can’t compare it directly to any other flavor, it’s safe to say ginger has a bit of a lemony yet earthy flavor. They might sound like opposite ends of the taste-spectrum, but that’s what makes ginger flavor so special. 

Varieties of Ginger

There are several different varieties of ginger. Based on what kind of ginger you have; you’ll use it differently in your recipes.

Fresh Ginger

There are two different kinds of fresh ginger, young and mature. In order to use mature ginger, you have to chop it up and get rid of the hard, exterior layer.

Young ginger has a soft exterior and doesn’t taste as strong as mature ginger. You don’t have to peel it in order to add it to your recipe.

Fresh ginger is generally minced or smashed before being added to a recipe, such as fried rice or in meats. It can also be added whole or in small pieces to soups.

Pickled Ginger

Pickled ginger is usually found as a side to sushi. It’s a combination of sweet and sour, like most pickled spices. It’s kept in a jar of sweet vinegar for added flavor.

Ground Ginger

This kind of ginger is the most commonly used. It comes in a powdered form and is used in multiple food items—whether they are sweet dishes or curries because it adds a spark of flavor that makes your recipe stand out.

Dried Ginger

This kind of ginger is a bit different than the others. You’ll usually find this in a whole, or sliced form that has been dried. Before adding it to any food, you have to give it time to soak into the liquid part of your recipe.

Preserved Ginger

If you’re planning on making a special Asian desert, you might need to get your hands on preserved ginger. This kind of ginger is kept in a liquid combination of salt and sugar and is added to sweets.

Tips on Cooking with Ginger

When you’re cooking with ginger, it’s important to remember that the intensity of its flavor will decrease because of the heat and after adding more ingredients.

A good tip is to distribute when you add ginger to the recipe—try adding some at the beginning and the rest near the end so its flavor doesn’t fade out.

Despite its pungency, ginger adds a great twist to sweets. Add it to an apple pie or banana bread recipe and you won’t regret the combination of flavors it brings out.

Tips on Buying Ginger

It’s hard to be completely sure of how your fresh ginger is going to turn out once you bring it home and cut it up.

However, to be on the safe side, look for ginger with brownish roots. Make sure the ends aren’t shriveling up, and that there’s no visible mold growing anywhere.

If you’re planning on stocking up so you don’t have to make multiple runs to the store—opt for fresh ginger. It lasts longer in the freezer than any other kind.

Tips on Storing Ginger

If you have ground or dried ginger, keep it in your pantry where it’s cooler and darker. You should also keep it in a glass container or jar that keeps air out—because ginger is prone to mold growth if exposed to air for long periods of time.

If you have fresh ginger, you can wrap it up in paper, cloth, or paper towels and put it in a Ziploc bag. It can stay fresh in the fridge for several weeks. If you want to preserve it for longer, you can freeze it as well.

Frozen ginger can last for months and is actually easier to chop up than fresh ginger.

You can read more about the proper procedure to freeze ginger over here.

Final Words

Hopefully, you have a stronger grasp on your knowledge of ginger. It might seem intimidating to add it to your recipes for now, but once you start to fully appreciate its unique taste—you won’t regret your decision.