This is probably the world's most important
and popular spice and is associated with a number of different cuisines
- Chinese, Indian and Caribbean, to name but a few. It was known in
Europe during the Roman period, but was still fairly rare until the
spice routes opened up trade in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Like many spices, ginger has the quality of enhancing and complementing
both sweet and savory food, adding a fragrant spiciness to all sorts of
dishes. However, while ground ginger is best in recipes which will be
baked, and stem ginger, where the ginger is preserved in syrup, tastes
wonderful in desserts, for savory dishes, always use fresh root ginger.
Nowadays, the pale, knobbly roots of fresh
ginger are widely available in supermarkets and whenever possible, buy
just a small quantity, as you will not need a great deal and fresh
ginger will not keep indefinitely.
To prepare, simply peel away the skin with a
sharp knife and grate or thinly slice according to the recipe.
Galangal looks similar to ginger except that
the rhizome is thinner and the young shoots are bright pink. The roots
should be prepared in the same way as ginger and can be used in curries
and satay sauces.