Monday, August 1, 2016

Summer Produce: Young Ginger Roots

Ginger root might be available all year long in local wet markets and grocery stores, but you will only see the milder young ginger root (子薑) in early summer, beginning at around the time of Dragon Boat Festival until early August. It’s rather easy to distinguish them – the regular, mature ginger roots are often tougher with dark, thick skins; while the young ginger roots, though in the same size, her thinner and paler, almost translucent skin, looks juicier and more tender, with a pinkish tint towards the tip.

Even their tastes are different. The mature ginger root has a strong, sharp spicy flavor, and with its rather tough texture, it can only be finely diced, julienned or grated for use sparingly as seasonings. On the other hand, young ginger root is much milder and delicate, good on its own or used in many dishes – for example, the most traditional recipe of sweet and sour pork calls for slices of young ginger roots be used when they are in season.

Young Pickled Ginger with Century Eggs (皮蛋酸薑) - dip the ginger with sugar and eat with the slices of century egg is a classic Cantonese appetizer dish.
One of the most common ways to prepare young ginger roots is to pickle them with rice vinegar and sugar. It's similar to those served at sushi counter as palate cleanser in between sushi pieces (called Gari), and Cantonese often have that with slices of century duck eggs. I understand not everyone can appreciate the taste and appearance of the century duck eggs, so here's an alternative recipe for a pickled young ginger appetizer, using ponzu jelly and cherry tomatoes. It’s a good finger food to start any meal with, or just served as hors d’oeuvres.


Recipe #1: Pickled Young Ginger Roots (yields one medium-jar)

Ingredients:
  • 200g young ginger roots
  • 1 tablespoon of coarse salt (table salt can be used)
  • 1 cup of rice vinegar (plus optionally, 2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar)
  • ½ cup of confectioner’s sugar or rock sugar
  • 4 tablespoon of water
  • ¼ teaspoon of table salt
Steps:
1. Use a spoon or the back of a knife, scrape off the skin. Cut the ginger root into chunks. Rub the coarse salt on all sides and set aside for 10-15 minutes. This is to let the moisture inside the ginger out.
2. Put the ginger into a pot of boiling water and blanch for one minute. Drain and dry the ginger completely and put in a small bowl. Set aside.
3. In the meantime, in a saucepan, add in the vinegar, sugar, water and table salt and bring it to a boil. Let it slightly cook and pour the liquid into the bowl of ginger. Cover with cling wrap and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. (Optionally, put some weight on top of the ginger to enhance the pickling process.
4. The next day, have a sterilized jar ready. Take out the ginger, and slice it to the thickness you desire – I prefer mine a little thicker, pour the pickling liquid out into a sauce pan and bring it to a boil on high heat for 5 minutes to remove some of the water content. Put the sliced ginger into the jar, pour the pickling liquid into the jar and seal.
5. When properly sealed, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one year.


Recipe #2: Tomato with Ponzu Jelly and Pickled Young Ginger Roots (yields 10 hors d’oeuvres pieces)

Ingredients:

  • 10 Fresh Tomatoes – ideally use ones with the size of a golf ball
  • ½ cup of ready-made ponzu sauce (alternatively, you can make your own ponzu sauce by mixing 1 part of lemon juice, 1 part of rice vinegar, 1 part of mild soy sauce and half part of mirin)
  • ¼ cup of water
  • 2g of agar-agar powder
  • 10 slices of young ginger roots
Steps:
1. Wash the tomatoes and cut off the top part (just slightly below the core). Use a spoon to carefully scoop out the flesh. Set the hollowed tomatoes in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
2. Use a blender the puree the flesh, put a cheesecloth over a fine strainer with a mixing bowl underneath, and pour the tomato puree into the strainer and let the clear liquid dripped through into the mixing bowl slowly. You can gently press the puree to expedite the process but it won’t yield as clear a liquid. That should yield around ¼ cup of tomato water.
3. Mix the tomato water, ponzu sauce and water, pour into a saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil.
4. Dissolve agar-agar powder into the liquid and mix completely. Pour into a bowl and keep in the refrigerator overnight to set.
5. Before serving, use a stick blender or regular blender to mix the jelly into fluid-gel consistency. Carefully spoon the jelly into the hollowed tomatoes and garnish with a slice of young ginger roots.


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