Variously known as ginger, adrak, adruk, inchi-ver, gingembre, zanjabil, Ingwer, khing, and myin this is probably the most versatile and distinctive spice in the world. In South Asian cuisines ginger plays a major role. There is no other flavor quite like it. Ginger is simultaneously lemony, hot, pungent, slightly woodsy, and sweet. Thought have originated in the lush jungles of the Indian Subcontinent, ginger is now known worldwide. Ginger's name derives from the Sanskrit term srngaveram, derived from the words srngam "horn" plus vera- "body" referring to the antler-like shape of its rhizome.
Fresh ginger is called "adrak" or "adruk" in Hindi and gets it's heat and flavor from the aromatic compound gingerol. Heating or cooking fresh ginger causes the gingerol present to transform to zingerone. Zingerone is similar in structure to vanillin (an artificial vanilla flavoring) and eugenol (the compound responsible for the flavor of cloves). So when we cook raw ginger it becomes sweeter and spicier. Candied ginger is a good example of the flavor of zingerone.
|The Desi mirepoix: ginger, onions, garlic, & chilis.|
Fresh ginger or adrak is a part of what I call the "Desi mirepoix" of ginger, garlic, onions, and green chilis. When sautéed in oil or ghee these ingredients form the flavor base in the layering of many a Desi dish from dals to meat curries. Fresh ginger's pungency and heat mellows when cooked this way to rich, mildly lemony, and subtly sweet notes. These harmoniously subdued flavors provide a perfect background for the earthy notes of traditional South Asian spices like cumin, fenugreek, and red chilis. Fresh ginger is often an ingredient in spice mixtures for milky chai in Winter or chilly regions like the Himalayas. When julienned, fresh ginger is often used as an attractive and tasty garnish atop dishes at fancy restaurants and posh dinners in South Asia.
|Mmmmm...ginger-y hot chai, my favorite!|
Calmly currying on,