From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Garlic & Ginger

Madi and I were doing the prep work for her sister’s birthday party (Eleyna had requested that I do fried rice for all 25 of her guests) and there wasn’t much that a 5 year old could do, although she always asked to be part of the cooking process.  While I was cutting and marinating meats, there all Madi could do was stand there next to me and watch.  I told her that as soon as there was something for her to do, I would holler for her, at which point she asked “Can I peel and squish the garlic?”
I realized, to my surprise, and her chagrin, that I was not using garlic or ginger in the recipes that I was using to make fried rice.  While I am a huge fan of both food items, there are some items where I will draw the line, as they don’t have much of a place in some recipes.  Coffee, chocolate, pudding and fried rice have little to no place for garlic.  The same applied to ginger. 
There are, however, many other uses for garlic and ginger that many people know about, or take for granted.  They function very well in the non-prescription, homeopathic form of many remedies for common ailments.
Garlic or Allium sativum is called hu suan in Chinese. Though most people know this herb just as garlic, some call it 'calabash garlic' and others know it as 'poor man’s treacle.' The Chinese believe it to be both pungent and warm and a vegetable that invigorates the stomach, warms the spleen, and keeps the lungs healthy. They also believe it eliminates worms, improves digestion, and provides and promotes vital energy or qi. They think that fresh or dried, oil of garlic or the bulb itself is valuable, but not too much of it or it irritates the stomach. They claim that there are no known hazards and that garlic does not cause any allergic reactions, except maybe a mild hand eczema.
They use garlic for the common cold as do many cultures but they use the juice, not the bulb, and mix it with ten parts of cool pre-boiled water and use it as drops in the nose. They also believe that garlic prevents cerebrospinal meningitis by eating a teaspoon’s worth at meals. For tuberculosis, they have a special mixture with some other tuber and rice but for this they only use purple garlic. For whooping cough, this same type of garlic, two tablespoons of it, are soaked in a cup of warm water for six hours, then mixed with sugar and given to children, half teaspoon at a time, three times a day.
Garlic as home remedies is also useful to deal with your skin problems. If you feel there will be pimple or acne start to show up on your skin, which usually begin with a spot or a bit swollen that feels itchy and if you scratch it you feel pain or the particular skin surface is harder than usual, better act fast. So before that pimple or acne gets bigger, try to treat it this way:
Rub pimple or acne candidate with garlic slice several times. It is claimed that they will not grow or bigger.
Please bear in mind, before you carry out these simple steps, make sure you have already cleaned your hands and the particular skin, including the garlic you will use as remedies.
There are other Chinese uses of garlic, one is to prevent and treat lead poisoning. Another it to treat dysentery. Yet another, for a nosebleed, crushed garlic is attached to the center of the sole of foot on same side as the bloody nose. They believe that bleeding stops when the soles of the feet get hot. Garlic is also used on either foot, for corns; for this the Chinese take equal amounts of garlic and scallions and crush them to a paste with a small amount of vinegar. They put this mixture directly on the corn. In addition to these uses, the Chinese give garlic to the elderly. There and in the United States research has shown that it reduces elevated lipid levels and prevents age-related vascular changes.
In the Chinese kitchen, garlic is used in almost all meat and in just about every seafood recipe and it is used in many vegetable dishes, too, as the fresh bulb. When their recipes call for garlic oil, they macerate the peeled bulbs in oil and leave them at least two days before using them. Garlic is used somewhat like chives, and as such it is are called garlic chives. These stalks have a small head on top before they open to a flower.
Ginger, the Chinese call jiang, sometimes sheng jiang, even gan jiang. For the first two they are referring to fresh or raw ginger, the last term is used when they mean dry ginger. Mislabeled a root, this rhyzome’s botanical name is Zingeber officianale or Rhyzoma zingiberis.
Its invigorating scent, sharp flavor, and medicinal qualities have made ginger a bona fide aphrodisiac for a millennia. Ginger root is actually the underground, spreading stems of the ginger plant. It works its way through the earth, forming a large bundle of twists and turns. Small portions of these twists and turns are called “hands,” and that’s what we buy today in the grocery as fresh ginger.
Eaten straight, it tastes zippy and hot on the tongue. Cooked, it transforms into a more subtle, spicy-sweet flavor. Mixed with sugar in a ginger chew, it becomes a sticky, intense nectar. Cold ginger ale bubbles down, soothing the stomach. Hot-from-the-oven gingerbread, historically eaten by European maidens in the hopes that their gingerbread man would turn into a real husband, fills any kitchen with warmth.
Beyond the senses, ginger helps with a myriad of medical issues, calming motion sickness, alleviating migraines, and thinning the blood. The last of these issues plays the strongest role in ginger’s aphrodisiac qualities by allowing circulation to flow easily throughout all parts of our system, engorging the body’s most sensitive areas with oxygen-rich blood. And we all know what that means.
Considered pungent and warm, the Chinese say that this vegetable warms the stomach and the lungs and it affects the spleen. They believe is induces sweating, alleviates nausea, disperses cold, neutralizes poison, and promotes circulation. This particular food item fresh or dried is considered of equal value, and they steep it fresh or dried, minced or ground, and make a tea using mixing either with boiling water.
Chinese doctors have advised patients not to use ginger tea if pregnant and experiencing morning sickness because it irritates the bile and not to use ginger should they have gallstones. But they do recommend it for coughs associated with phlegm. They would treat a patient with a bad cough with boiled ginger, a Chinese radish, scallions, and water and have them drink some and at the same time rub simmered warm ginger on their back. Should the problem be a cold in the stomach with vomiting, they would suggest two tablespoons of fresh ginger with four times that amount of garlic made into a juice and advise drinking this as one serving, and repeat as needed but not too often.
For roundworms, TCM practitioners say to mix four tablespoons of crushed fresh ginger with an equal amount of honey and eat this three times in one day. For hiccups, the recommendation is for a teaspoon of ginger with some persimmons and mix this in water and drink it; but do not have it more than twice a day. For menstrual cramps, a tablespoon of ginger is mixed with two duck eggs and a quarter of cup of rice wine; this is simmered and eaten all at once. For a migraine, mix ginger skin with scallions and rice wine and drink immediately. Ginger is also used for loss of appetite, to increase one’s qi, and these days, before flying, to ward off travel sickness.
In the culinary arena, ginger is used in many recipes, often in conjunction with garlic. While I have not had much practical use for its homeopathic applications, it is fair to suggest that my good health is due in part to my love of consuming garlic and ginger.  Known famously for its ability to ward of vampires and other blood sucking pests, such as mosquitoes, perhaps the constant flow of garlic in my blood is warding off the cold and flu that seem to be battering down many in this city now.
In the mean time, I guess I will continue to feature garlic prominently in my meals.  Not just for the taste, but for the health benefits associated with it, and for the simple fact that I have my own 5 year old garlic peeler and presser.

Until then, Good Eating, Friends…

  • 1lb tender steak (sliced into thin strips)
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large carrot, diced fine
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup fresh minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • oil
In a bowl combine the cornstarch and water. Whisk to combine. Beat the eggs into cornstarch/water mixture. Add the sliced steak strips and toss to coat. In a small bowl combine soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and red pepper flakes. Whisk to combine and set aside. Pour 1 inch of oil into a wok or skillet. Heat to medium hot and add about a 1/4 pound the steaks at a time and cook, stirring to keep the pieces separate. Cook until crispy. Drain the beef on paper towels. Repeat until the meat is cooked. Drain all oil out of the wok except for about 1 tablespoon. Add green onion, carrots, ginger and garlic. Stir fry for 30 seconds to a minute, but don’t cook too long, you don’t want the vegetables to get too cooked.  Add the sauce to the wok and bring the mixture to a boil. Add beef, heat thorough and serve immediately. Serves 2. This recipe can be doubled or tripled

  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons toasted almonds
  • cooked rice or noodles, optional
Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring until onions turn golden brown. Add chicken pieces and stirring constantly so they don’t stick together. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the pieces are almost done. Add in the ginger, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Heat to a simmer, stir once or twice and then cover and cook about 3 minutes. DO NOT OVER COOK. Stir in the green onions. Place the chicken on a serving plate with rice or noodles and top with toasted almonds. Serves 1

  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, soy sauce, honey, ground ginger, garlic powder and green onion. Place salmon in a large glass dish and pour marinade over them. Turn to coat and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Preheat a grill with the sesame oil in it. Discard marinade and cook the salmon for 6 to 8 minutes a side or till fish flakes easily with a fork. Serves 4.

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