AN important ingredient in many Asian cuisines, ginger is believed to have therapeutic properties, among them soothing upset stomachs and stimulating appetite.
Ginger is available in many forms: knobby fresh gingerroot, pickled ginger (a classic condiment with sushi), ground ginger for baking, and sweet candied or preserved ginger in syrup. In liquid form there's ginger tea, ale, wine or beer.
When buying fresh ginger choose a smooth, firm, light-coloured root. If it's wrinkled or soft the flesh inside will likely be dry and fibrous. Store ginger in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or freeze it. You can grate frozen ginger into your dishes and re-freeze the remainder for later use. A good way to remove the peel from fresh ginger is to scrape it off with the tip of a small spoon (it makes it easier to navigate around the little ginger "moguls").
CRISPY GINGER BEEF
This Chinese restaurant favourite isn't hard to replicate at home. Serve with steamed white rice.
1 lb flank steak, sliced one-quarter-inch thick across the grain and then into one-quarter-inch strips
¾ cup cornstarch
½ cup cool water
1 large carrot, cut into thin julienne strips
3 green onions, chopped
¼ cup minced, peeled fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves, minced Canola oil
6 Tbsp soy sauce 5 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp Asian sesame oil
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (use more or less depending on how hot you like food)
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp cold water
Place the cornstarch in a large bowl and gradually whisk in the water; then whisk in the eggs until well combined. Add the beef to the mixture and stir to coat well. Pour one-inch of oil into a wok or a deep, heavy skillet and heat until boiling hot but not smoking. With a slotted spoon remove one-quarter of the beef from the cornstarch mixture and place it in the oil; separate the pieces with a fork and cook, stirring frequently until crispy (check one to make sure it's cooked through).
Remove from oil with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined baking tray to drain.
Repeat with the remaining beef in three more batches; set beef aside while making sauce. Drain off all the oil in the wok except about two tablespoons; add the carrots, green onion, ginger and garlic in that order and stirfry briefly over high heat.
Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and pepper flakes in a small bowl; stir until sugar dissolves then add mixture to the wok; bring to a boil, then add cornstarch mixture.
Stir until sauce has thickened; add beef and stir to coat with sauce. Cook just until beef is hot; serve immediately. Makes four servings.
Chocolate Covered Ginger
1 lb crystallized ginger chunks (available in bulk)
12 ounces good quality dark or milk chocolate, chopped
Line a large baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Place the chopped chocolate in a metal bowl over a saucepan containing one-inch of simmering (not boiling) water; don't let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.
Stir the chocolate until melted; turn off heat but leave the bowl over the simmering water to keep chocolate soft.
Spear a piece of ginger with a toothpick or a cocktail fork and twirl it in the melted chocolate until well coated; with another toothpick or a small knife lightly scrape the bottom of the ginger piece to remove drips.
Place the coated ginger on the lined baking sheet to set; remove toothpick (hold the ginger with another toothpick to make it easier). Repeat with remaining ginger.
Let set before eating or refrigerating. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container between layers of waxed paper or parchment.
Angela Shellard has done informal catering for sports and business functions. Contact: email@example.com.