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How to Buy and Use Ginger Root

April 19, 1990|JOAN DRAKE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fresh ginger root, for centuries an essential ingredient in Asian recipes, has more recently found its way into Western kitchens. Formerly available only in Asian markets, this rhizome (a creeping stem that lies under the surface of the soil) today may be purchased in most supermarket produce sections.

The longer the growing period, the more fibrous ginger becomes. Except for very young ginger, which is cream-colored with pink-tipped shoots, it's difficult to determine age without cutting into the root. Because ginger may be polished before it's marketed, a sheen of the light brown skin is not a reliable indicator of freshness.

When choosing fresh ginger root, look instead for hard rhizomes that snap easily into pieces. Avoid dry, shriveled stems that feel light in weight for their size.

Fresh ginger root should be stored in a refrigerator crisper in a plastic bag containing a paper towel to absorb moisture. Change the towel occasionally to prevent molding and the ginger will remain fresh for two to three weeks.

Except for very young ginger and slices that are added to recipes only for flavoring and then removed, all ginger root should be peeled. Many sources suggest using a vegetable peeler for this task, but a sharp paring knife (Step 1) is better suited to the irregular shape and uneven surface of this rhizome.

To mince or roughly chop, crush a peeled piece of ginger with the flat side of a chef's knife (Step 2) or Chinese cleaver. The shredded fibers may then be chopped with the knife or cleaver blade (Step 3).

To extract juice, place minced ginger in a small square of cheesecloth (Step 4). Gather the corners and twist to release the fresh juice (Step 5).

Graters made especially for ginger are available in stores that carry Asian cookware. These oroshigane are extremely fine-toothed and rake the flesh off the fibers (Step 6). They may be made from aluminum, stainless steel, ceramic or plastic; most have a sill to collect the draining juice.

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