The pungent, spicy flavor that’s ginger!

Also known as adrak, in India, the first thing you should know about ginger, or the part of the plant that is used as a spice, is that it is not a root, although it sure looks like one! This rough, gnarled part, though dug up from the ground, is a ‘rhizome’ meaning an underground stem that grows horizontally below the surface.

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Fresh or ground, the ‘zing’ flavor remains

It’s local, it’s indigenous, it’s nutritional, it’s aromatic, it’s colourful, it’s a harmony of flavors; a typical Indian meal that provides you with that ‘special’ taste of India, on one single platter!

And, what does the ginger plant look like? It is a tall plant (2-4 feet), with long pointy leaves and yellow-green flowers.

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Fresh or ground, the ‘zing’ flavor remains

How does one describe the flavour of this highly versatile spice that is used around the world and is an integral part of Indian cuisine? Is it spicy, pungent, woody or lemony? I guess a blend of all with the added ‘warming’ effect!
Fresh ginger (brown on the outside and yellow on the inside) is used in most Indian households to prepare daily curries, stir-fries and other vegetarian dishes. Available at your local super market, it must first be peeled. It can then be grated, chopped or ground into a paste; sometimes along with garlic.

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Fresh ginger is cut or grated

When dried, it is less spicy and can also be used in innumerable ways.
There’s more. Ginger can be pickled and preserved and used as an accompaniment with other main course dishes. It can be used in sauces, dips and marinades.
Looking for that spicy flavour in sweets, pies and other savouries? Make sure you add a pinch of ground ginger to it. Remember the ever-famous ginger cookies and the gingerbread man!
Then there’s crystallised or candied ginger, ginger beer and ginger ale.
In many parts of the world, ginger is used to treat colds and coughs; it even helps with digestion.
The spicy flavour, and most of its so-called ‘medicinal’ properties come from gingerol a compound present in it.
A small amount of grated or sliced fresh ginger in your morning cup of tea is heavenly and nostalgic! A monsoon day in the Indian countryside; sipping on masala chai (tea) and indulging on some crispy fried onion pakoras, while you smell the fresh earth and listen to the rain tap- tapping on the rooftop!