Tag Archives: ginger

Thai Cuisine

Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that has not been colonized by Europeans. Thus, its cuisine is authentic and has only been slightly influenced by bordering countries or traders.

Thai cuisine is very spicy and focuses on dishes which are well balanced in four areas – sweet (usually palm sugar or coconut milk), salty (fish sauce and salt), sour (lime in several forms and tamarind) and spicy (chilies). Meals served in restaurants are accompanied by a quartet of sauces brought to the table – fish sauce, sliced chili peppers in rice vinegar, dried chili flakes, and palm sugar. Rice is served at most meals, (usually jasmine rice, but also sticky or glutinous rice) and sometimes noodles. Cucumbers are often served to cool the palate. I was told recently that additional ways to counter the spiciness is to add more rice, add sugar, or drink more beer!

Thai food was traditionally eaten by the right hand while seated on cushions on the floor, but today most Thais eat with a fork and large spoon. The fork is held in the left hand and is used to scoop or push into the spoon which is held in the right hand. Chopsticks are reserved only for noodle dishes.

The Thai pantry can be stocked from items available in the international aisle at a grocery store or a local Asian market. Lo’s Seafood in Portsmouth, NH carries Thai canned goods (coconut milk, fish sauce, tamarind paste), kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, fresh chilies (bird’s eye chilies or very tiny chilies are hotter than larger chilies), Thai basil and cilantro. Green, yellow and red curry pastes (hottest to mildest, respectively) can be made from scratch or purchased already prepared.

The following recipe for Chicken Coconut Milk Soup is one which we prepared at the Thai Farm Cooking School while I was in Thailand recently.

Tom Kaa Gai (Chicken Coconut Milk Soup)


½ c. water

¼ cup of peeled, thinly sliced galangal or ginger

1 stalk of lemongrass, sliced into one-inch pieces

½ cup halved grape tomatoes

½ cup sliced mushrooms

1-5 bird eye’s chili peppers

1 chicken breast, sliced thinly and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 can coconut milk

2-3 kaffir lime leaves

1 stem of cilantro, finely diced

3 sliced scallions

1 T. fish sauce or soy sauce

½ teaspoon light brown sugar

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons of lime juice


Combine water, galangal, lemongrass, tomatoes and mushrooms in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to boil. Remove stems from chili peppers and crush open by banging down with your palm on the flat side of a heavy knife. Add chili peppers, coconut milk and chicken pieces to broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until chicken is milky white all the way through. Fold kaffir lime leaves in half along spine and remove spine of each leaf to release flavor. Add to soup with cilantro, scallions, fish sauce, sugar and salt to taste. Continue to cook over medium heat for 5 more minutes to intensify flavor. Finally add lime juice (soup will be too bitter if lime juice is added too early.) Lemongrass pieces, kaffir lime leaves, chilies and  galangal or ginger root should be removed prior to serving as they are all too tough to chew. Serves 2.






Summer Cold Remedy Tea

Turmeric tea

Now that you know about all the health benefits of turmeric, prepare this citrus ginger turmeric mixture to have on hand the next time to feel a cold coming on. The lemon decreases the strength of the cold virus, the ginger soothes your throat after coughing, and the honey contains tryptophan which will help you sleep at night.


2 lemons, thinly sliced with seeds removed

1 orange thinly sliced

2 inches of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced

1 T. of ground turmeric

1 c. honey


Mash the ginger root with a mortar and pestle to make a paste. Combine all ingredients in a jar and store in refrigerator for up to one month. To make a cup of tea, simply put a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into a tall mug and fill with boiling water.

Curried Coconut Chicken

Curried coconut chicken2

Curried Coconut Chicken

Fragrant and packed with a hint of spiciness, this chicken recipe will satisfy on a cool evening. Serve over jasmine or Basmati rice and garnish with plain, nonfat yogurt or chutney.

Spice paste:

1 T. finely minced hot peppers or chilies

6 shallots, peeled and quartered

1 c. unsweetened flaked coconut

1/2  t. ground cloves

1 t. cinnamon

2 t. ground coriander

1/2 t. ground cardamom

2 t. fennel seeds

1 t. dried mustard

1 t. cumin seeds

1 t. turmeric


1/4 c. canola oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. peeled and minced fresh ginger root

1 large red onion, diced

1 large red bell pepper, diced

6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 t. salt

2 T. apple cider vinegar

1 c. water


Spice paste:  To toast coconut, place coconut flakes in a skillet over medium heat and stir until golden on the edges. Combine coconut and all other ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Add 4-5 T. of water and blend until a smooth paste forms.  Set aside.

Chicken:  Saute garlic, ginger root, onion and bell pepper in oil over medium heat until tender.  Add spice paste, chicken, salt, vinegar and water.  Bring chicken mixture to boil over medium high heat.  Cover and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for 45 minutes until chicken is tender. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary to keep it from sticking.   Serves 4-6.


Week 29: Edible Flowers

Edible flowers2

Winter in New England has been long and cold this year, but warmer weather is just around the corner.  Nothing heralds spring so much as tender young blossoms emerging from the soil!  Many of these flowers are edible and add color, flavor, aroma and elegance to entrees, salads and desserts.  I recently ordered an Edible Flower Garden kit from http://www.bambeco.com and can hardly wait for it to arrive!

The concept of using flowers in cookery is not new. Cooking with flowers dates to Roman times, and to the cuisine of China, India, and the Middle East. The Victorians, who associated edible flowers with elegance, candied violets to decorate cakes and desserts. Italian and Hispanic cultures gave us stuffed zucchini blossoms. Chartreuse, a classic green liqueur developed in France in the 17th century, uses carnation petals as one of its secret ingredients.

It was common to dry the petals and include them in tea blends. Popular tea flowers were hibiscus, rose, jasmine and bee balm. Bee balm was used as a tea substitute when black tea became unavailable during the Boston Tea Party in 1773. To preserve violets, medieval monks made a sweet syrup from the petals.

The most common flowers used in cooking are:

Alliums (leeks, chives, garlic, garlic chives) – Known as “onion flowers,” they include the blossoms from onions, garlic, chives, ramps, and shallots. Their flavors range from mild onions and leeks right through to strong onion and garlic. All parts of the plants are edible.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) – Both flowers and leaves have a delicate anise or licorice flavor, which remind some people of root beer. The blossoms are excellent in salads and make attractive plate garnishes and are often used in Chinese cuisine.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – Blossoms are bright white, pale pink, or a delicate lavender. The flavor of the flower is milder, but similar to basil leaves.  Some varieties have different milder flavors like lemon and mint.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – Also called Wild Bergamot, Wild Oswego Tea, or Horsemint, wild bee balm tastes like oregano, mint or citrus like lemon and orange. It is the main ingredient in Earl Gray Tea.

Begonias (Begonia X tuberosa) – Tuberous begonia petals are used in salads and as a garnish with have a citrus-sour taste. Stems, also, can be used in place of rhubarb. The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidney stones, or rheumatism.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – Also known as marigolds, the calendula had golden-range hued petals and flavors that range from spicy to bitter, tangy to peppery. Only the petals are edible and add a yellow tint to soups, spreads, and scrambled eggs. Sprinkle them on soups, pasta or rice dishes, herb butters, and salads. The sharp taste resembles saffron (also known as Poor Man’s Saffron).

Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum coronarium) – Tangy, slightly bitter, ranging in colors from red, white, yellow and orange, chrysanthemum petals range in taste from faint peppery to mild cauliflower. Blanche the petals first and then scatter them on a salad. Always remove the bitter flower base. Young leaves and stems of the Crown Daisy, also known as Chop Suey Greens or Shingiku in Japan, are widely used in oriental stir-fries and as salad seasoning.

Cilantro/Coriander (Coriander sativum) – Like the leaves and seeds, the flowers have a strong herbal flavor. Use leaves and flowers raw as the flavor fades quickly when cooked. Sprinkle to taste on salads, bean dishes, and cold vegetable dishes.

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinalis) Dandelions are members of the daisy family. Flowers are sweetest when picked young. They have a sweet, honey-like flavor. Mature flowers are bitter. Young leaves taste good steamed, or tossed in salads. When serving a rice dish use dandelion petals like confetti over the rice.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – Fennel has spiky yellow flowers that have a mild anise flavor. Use with desserts or cold soups, or as a garnish with your entrees.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) – Petals from the white variety of ginger is very fragrant and has a gingery taste on the tongue. They may be eaten raw or the tender, young shoots can be cooked.

Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) – Impatiens, which have a sweet flavor, can be used as a garnish in salads or floated in drinks.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – Lavender flowers look beautiful and have a sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes. They can be added to a glass of champagne, served with chocolate cake, or used as a garnish for ice creams. Lavender lends itself to savory dishes also, from hearty stews to wine-reduced sauces. Diminutive blooms add a mysterious scent to custards, flans or sorbets. NOTE:  Do not purchase and consume lavender oil, as it may be poisonous.

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla) -\Lemon verbena sports diminutive cream-colored citrus-scented blossoms. Leaves and flowers can be steeped as an herbal tea, and used to flavor custards and flans.

Mint (Mentha spp) – The flavor of mint flowers are, as their name implies “minty,” but with different overtones depending variety. Mint flowers and leaves are great in Middle Eastern dishes.

Nasturtiums Tropaeolum majus) – Nasturtiums are my favorite edible flowers.  They come in brilliant sunset colors with peppery flavors. Blossoms have a sweet, spicy flavor similar to watercress. Stuff whole flowers with savory mousse. Leaves add peppery tang to salads. Pickled seed pods are less expensive substitute for capers. Use the entire flower to garnish platters, salads, open-faced sandwiches, and savory appetizers.

Pansy (Viola X wittrockiana) – Pansies have a slightly sweet green or grassy flavor. If you eat only the petals, the flavor is extremely mild, but if you eat the whole flower, there is a winter, green overtone. Use them as garnishes, in fruit salads, green salad, desserts or in soups.

Violets (Viola species) – Sweet, perfumed flavor. Related flowers, Johnny jump-ups or violas, and pansies now come in colorful purples and yellows to apricot and pastel hues. They are great in salads or as a garnish for desserts. They can also be crystallized. The heart-shaped leaves are edible, and tasty when cooked like spinach.

NOTE:  Do not use herbicides and pesticides on plants whose blossoms you want to use in the kitchen, and NEVER collect flowers from along the roadside or from the florist.  Not all flowers are edible and could make you sick if you digest the wrong ones. Remove pistils and stamens before using.  Only the blossom petals should be consumed.







Asian Pot Stickers with Ginger Dipping Sauce

Pot Stickers


Ginger Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Pot Stickers
2 1/2 cups cabbage, finely chopped
1/3 pound ground chicken or pork
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced (from 1/2-inch knob)
1 small carrot, grated
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper
30 gyoza (pot sticker) wrappers
1/4 cup canola oil


First, make the Ginger Dipping Sauce. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.
Next make the filling for the pot stickers. In large bowl, combine shredded cabbage, chicken or pork, ginger, carrots, scallions, and garlic. In a separate bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, and egg, then stir into cabbage-meat mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

On dry surface, lay out 1 gyoza wrapper. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cabbage-meat filling into center, then moisten halfway around edge with water. Fold one edge of the gyoza wrapper over and seal, using thumb and forefinger of one hand, forming tiny pleats edge of wrapper. Set pot sticker aside on a baking sheet while you make the remainder of the pot stickers.

In a large non-stick skillet over moderately high heat, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Cook, the pot stickers on each side until golden brown. Add 1/2 cup water to the skillet and cover tightly with lid. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to serving platter and serve with Ginger Dipping Sauce. Makes 30.

Week 11: Ginger

Ginger root

Ginger is the rhisome or root of the ginger plant, known botanically as Zingiber officinale. The plant’s botanical name is thought to be derived from its Sanskrit name singabera which means “horn shaped,” a physical characteristic that ginger reflects. Ginger produces clusters of white and pink flower buds that blossom into pink or yellow flowers and the plants are often used for landscaping around subtropical homes.

Ginger flower

The flesh of the rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color. It is covered with a thin, brownish skin that can be easily removed by using a paring knife or scraping it with a spoon. It adds a spicy, fragrant flavor to food.


Ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern writings, and has long been prized for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties. After the ancient Romans imported ginger from China almost two thousand years ago, its popularity in Europe remained centered in the Mediterranean region until the Middle Ages when its use spread throughout other countries.
Beginning in 1585, Jamaican ginger was the first oriental spice to be grown in the New World.

Although it is native to Southeast Asia, ginger is grown commercially today in Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia.

Health Benefits

Ginger has historically been shown to alleviate gastrointestinal distress, particularly motion sickness, especially dizziness, nausea, vomiting and cold sweating. In the April 2005 issue of the journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology, it is reported that eating ginger is also a safe, effective treatment for relieving the severity of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

Ginger also has anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. This explains why people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly.

Research studies also suggest that gingerols may also inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells and may kill cancer cells in ovarian cancer. It is also used to treat heartworm in dogs!

Culinary Uses

Although ginger powder is available in the spice aisle of the grocery store, it is best to purchase fresh ginger root in the produce section as it has higher levels of gingerol. Ginger is also available in several other forms including crystallized, candied and pickled ginger (served as a condiment with sushi). Fresh ginger can be stored unpeeled in the refrigerator for up to three weeks or peeled and grated in the freezer for up to six months.

Ginger is used in cuisine all over the world. In Western cooking, ginger is traditionally used in sweet foods such as ginger ale, gingerbread, and ginger snap cookies. In India and Pakistan, fresh ginger is one of the main spices used for making pulse and lentil (dried legumes) curries and other vegetables. Fresh, as well as dried, ginger is used to spice tea and coffee, especially in winter.

In Bangladesh, ginger is finely chopped or ground into a paste to use as a base for chicken and meat dishes with onion and garlic. In China, sliced or whole ginger root is often paired with savory dishes such as fish, and chopped ginger root is commonly paired with meat and candied ginger is eaten as a sweet. Ginger beer, a nonalcoholic carbonated beverage is also popular in Jamaica and the U.S.

Ginger Beer

To add a little spice to your recipes, try adding ginger to maple syrup to make a glaze for meats and vegetables. Infuse it into milk and cream to make a tangy custard or ice cream. You can even add it to tomato sauces! The sweetness of the tomatoes is a nice counterpoint to the sharp, spicy notes of the ginger. Also try adding chopped, crystallized ginger to cookies or muffins for an extra treat.