Ginger – The fibrous rhizome of the Zingiber officinale plant, native to China and Southeast Asia, is used in sweet as well as savoury foods nearly everywhere in the world. Fresh ginger (also known as gingerroot) has a sharp, pungent flavour with sweet, citrus undertones. It is used throughout Asia in every type of dish. In Europe and the rest of the Western world, ginger is more likely to be used in a dried, candied, or preserved form because it was in these forms that ginger was traded from the Far East for many centuries.
Fresh ginger may be used sliced, minced, grated, or added whole to a dish and removed before serving. Even though it is not necessary to peel fresh ginger, the thin brown skin is easily removed by rubbing with the edge of a spoon. When buying fresh ginger, look for pieces (called “hands” in the trade) that are hard, unwrinkled, and heavy for their size. It will keep for up to three weeks in the refrigerator, and almost indefinitely frozen. Store some fresh ginger in a small glass jar filled with dry sherry in the refrigerator. This will provide you not only with fresh ginger that will keep for several months, but the ginger-flavoured sherry can also be used in cooking, and you can refill the jar with both sherry and ginger to maintain your supply.
Dried, powdered ginger is most often found in baked goods in the West. Its flavour ranges from peppery and lemony in the case of the better grades, to sharp and bitter in the case of the less expensive grades-buy Jamaican or Cochin ginger if possible. It is also widely used in Asia, especially in spice mixtures such as Chinese five-spice, masalas, and curries. Crystallized ginger may be eaten as is, or used to flavour baked goods, ice cream, and cakes. Ginger is often pickled in vinegar and served as a condiment, especially in Japan where one method produces gari, the paper-thin slices of ginger (made pink by the pickling) that accompany sushi.