Ginger comes from the grated root of the ginger plant, Zingiber officinale, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This aromatic root has been used for thousands of years as both a medicinal ingredient and a cooking spice. It is referenced as a prized medicinal and culinary plant in ancient Indian and Chinese texts, and is regarded in the Koran as "an Aromatic of Paradise," according to Asian Cook. Ginger imparts a slightly sweet, spicy taste and a pungent aroma to a variety of foods.
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Chinese Stir Fry Dishes
Ginger is a prized spice in China, and is used in a variety of stir fries in Chinese cuisine. Most often, the ginger is finely grated, according to the Asian Cook website. It is then cooked briefly in oil (typically for about one minute) and then added to a stir fry dish. The brief cooking softens the ginger, but still allows it to retain a fresh, spicy taste.
According to Asian Cook, ginger is widely used in Thai curry dishes. Small pieces of fresh ginger root are combined with other spices and ground into a paste. The paste is then combined with coconut milk to create a pungent sauce for meat, fish and vegetables.
In India, chefs use ginger to spice a variety of curries and other regional dishes. This is most common in Northern India, where meats commonly accompany vegetables and legumes. Ginger is typically minced and fried with garlic. This gives the spice a milder taste than in Chinese cuisine, according to Asian Cook.
Gingerbread is a common holiday treat in the United States and other Western countries. While most people use dried ginger when making gingerbread, you can obtain much better results with fresh ginger, says Whole Living. Using 1/2 cup of fresh ginger gives gingerbread a zesty taste while imparting the herb's anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.