Ginger has been highly prized for its medicinal and culinary properties for thousands of years. Fresh, dried, ground, crystallized, pickled and preserved, it is a remarkably versatile spice.
The known history of ginger in cooking dates back over 5,000 years when records show that Indian and Chinese cultures used it as a healing tonic. But it was most likely used to flavor dishes and create herbal concoctions long before official records began.
This pungent spice was an important trade item between India and the Roman Empire, where it was valued for its medicinal properties rather than its culinary uses. Think about it, the pasta stew recipe could have been so much different if the ginger had been removed as a spice.
Ginger in its many forms can actually be found in recipes from most corners of the world and we have a few to carefully mark.
Chinese: Ginger Chicken
Ginger is nearly as ubiquitous as soy sauce in Chinese cuisine, so take your pick of ginger dishes to try. Put that ginger chicken on the list, though. It’s a simple celebration of what ginger spice offers.
Jamaica: Jerk Chicken
Jamaicans use ginger liberally in many of their recipes, but we can’t get past a spicy jerk chicken to really show how ginger plays with other spices.
Korea: Spicy Pork
Jeyuk bokkeum is a very popular Korean barbecue dish that has all the bold flavors of Korean cuisine: a piece of ginger balances gochujang, gochugaru, vinegar and soy.
Thailand: Green Curry
Green curry paste always contains a healthy ingot of ginger and its sister spice galangal. This green curry lobster recipe is a nice change from the usual chicken curry.
Lebanon: Spicy rice pudding
More than 2000 years ago, ginger was brought from India to the Middle East. There is therefore a rich tradition of ginger dishes throughout the region. Ground ginger is especially popular in desserts like this spicy rice pudding.
This 18th century gingerbread recipe is from Eliza Smith’s book, The complete housewife, or the companion of the accomplished nice woman from 1727. However, the first known gingerbread recipe came from Greece in 2400 BC.
United States: gingerbread men
While Americans go wild for gingerbread men at Christmas, they actually date back to Elizabeth I and England. The Queen’s staff included a royal gingerbread maker who first created gingerbread men in the likeness of a visiting foreign dignitary.
Sri Lanka: fish curry
Lemongrass combines beautifully with ginger to create a flavorful base for a delicate Sri Lankan fish curry. Proof that ginger can be subtle when needed.
Japan: Pickled Ginger
If your only taste of Japanese pickled ginger so far has been out of a packet from the sushi train, we invite you to make this recipe.
India: Chana masala
Ginger is one of the mainstays of Indian cuisine and a good chickpea masala usually contains it. This version of Amritsar is even finished with strips of julienned fresh ginger.
Vietnam: Candied ginger
Mut gung is eaten generously during Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. The sweet snack is enjoyed over a cup of green tea when customers stop in for a visit.
Malaysia: Nasi lemak
Enhance the flavor of the rice by adding ginger, lemongrass and shallots. Add a little of this and a little of that and you have a portable dish of nasi lemak.