Ingredient: Young Ginger

Young ginger

Since we are just beginning the new Ingredients series, I should
probably be writing more about basic Thai ingredients before I venture
out to more seasonal and harder to find stuff. But this is the height
of the season for this particular ingredient, and I’ve been using a lot
of it in my recent cooking, and it’s probably a good idea to do this
before the season is over.

What is this, you asked? This is young ginger. It looks more like
galangal than it does ginger, but if you scratch a bit of the skin of
and give it a sniff, you’d know that it is indeed ginger. Young ginger
makes an appearance in Chinese or Asian markets around the beginning of
Spring, and usually hangs around until Summer time.

The flavor of young ginger is at once similar to and different from old
ginger. It has all the pure flavor and brightness of ginger, without
the strong bitter and astringent taste in older ginger. You can a lot
of young ginger in a recipe without turning whatever you are making
inedibly astringent and spicy.

I use young ginger in a lot of dishes, but one of my favorite is
inspired by a Chinese dish of steamed fish with ginger and scallion. I
made a couple of adaptations to suit the way I cook. I use fish filet
instead of whole fish, and I don’t steam my fish. The only steamer I
have is huge, and I am usually far too impatient to wait for the water
to boil and then steam anything. Instead, I bake my fish filet in a
paper parcel instead, borrowing from an old French technique called en
. The effect is pretty much the same. The paper parcel keeps moisture in the fish just as well as steaming does, and when you
are done eating the paper goes in the garbage, no pot or pan to wash.

Fish with young ginger and scallion en papillote
Serves 2

2 filets of Tai snapper, about 3-4oz or 100g each (If you don’t have Tai snapper just about any white fish will do. You might have to adjust the cooking time a bit though.)
1/4 cup of julienned* scallion
1/4 cup of julienned young ginger
a little bit of cilantro (leaf only, no stem)
a bit of julienned red sweet pepper (for garnish, totally optional)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp water
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp mild tasting oil (I use grapeseed oil)
2 pieces of 15×12′ parchment paper

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. PapilloteFold each paper in half. Put a piece of filet in the middle of each piece of paper and sprinkle about a quarter of the julienned ginger on each of the filet. Crimp the edges to make a half moon-shaped parcels**. Bake the parcels of fish on a cookie sheet for 8 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix the sugar, water, and soy sauce. Stir well until the sugar melt, then add the sesame oil. Set aside.
4. When the fish filets are ready, heat the 1 tbsp of mild oil until hot. (If you have a tiny butter pan, you can do this on the stovetop. If not, heat the oil in a small bowl in the microwave for 2 minutes on High. To test if the oil is hot enough, take a long stem of cilantro and dip one end in the hot oil, if the oil sizzles and wilts the cilantro, then it is ready.)
5. Place each parcel on a plate. Cut them open (by cutting around the crimped edge) and sprinkle the rest of the scallion and young ginger on both pieces of fish. Spoon half the soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil mixture on each parcel.
6. Spoon 1/2 tbsp of hot oil on each parcel. Be careful as the oil will splatter a bit. Serve immediately.

*Julienne, a French culinary term, is a style of cutting any vegetable into thin matchstick-size pieces.

** If you google ‘how to papillote’ you will get a lot of confusing instructions, most of them requiring you to cut your paper into heart shape etc. I don’t bother with any of that. I just cut it straight from the box into a rectangular, fold it in half, then crimp the edges to fold into half moon, sort of like the picture above. It’s super easy.


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11 Responses to “Ingredient: Young Ginger

  • Bea at La Tartine Gourmande said:
    March 30th, 2006 at 8:06pm

    AH I just ADORE ginger and wish I could only once have what you describe here, young fresh like this. The taste must be enhanced so much. Your recipe sounds divine! Vive la cuisine Thai!

  • rob said:
    March 30th, 2006 at 10:04pm

    Hi Pim,
    I was very intrigued by your description of young ginger, so I immediately grabbed my copy of David William’s, Thai Food, to read his opinion.
    He says that young ginger “is generally preferred in Thai cooking and is used in salads, curries, and soups.”
    So, I guess I have two questions:
    1. Can young ginger be substituted freely for old ginger when making Thai curries?
    2. Do you have any recipes for salads with young ginger?

  • Lisa said:
    March 30th, 2006 at 11:25pm

    it’s my favourite way of cooking fish too when I can find fresh fish that is! One of the frustrations of living here is you can’t get young ginger. I use normal ginger but in lesser quality. Your fish look good!!! I can taste it.

  • Diane said:
    March 30th, 2006 at 11:28pm

    Thanks for the recipe! I always see young ginger at the market, but have never really been sure what to do with it. I love ginger and use it in everything from tea, to Indian curries, to pickles. Mmmmmmmm……

  • shaz said:
    March 31st, 2006 at 9:38am

    hi there pim. I added your blog as a link on mine. I hope you dun mind. Shaz, a food blogger from singapore

  • keiko said:
    March 31st, 2006 at 1:04pm

    Pim, I can almost taste/smell this wonderful dish – I must hunt for some young ginger! Gorgeous pictures, as always.

  • shuna fish lydon said:
    March 31st, 2006 at 9:48pm

    I have a leetle pastry secret to share about young ginger— it will not de-nature butterfat molecules the way mature ginger will. So ice cream and pot de creme are much easier with the young tender stuff!

  • Pim said:
    March 31st, 2006 at 11:32pm

    Bea: Thanks. It really does taste good. You should try to get your hands on it. With your creativity I’m sure you’d find all kinds of fun ways to use it up.
    Rob: I think you meant David Thompson, yes? To answer your question, #1 yes, but you’d have to adjust the quantity a bit. I would use much less old ginger than young ginger in any recipe; #2 yes, but you’d have to wait until May. I gave that recipe for a paper and it will come out then.
    Lisa: Normal ginger would do just fine here too. Like you said, I’d use a lot less. I also sometimes rinse julienned old ginger in salt water before using it in a recipe , especially when I get ginger that is very old and super astringent.
    Diane: give it a try and tell me what you think.
    Shaz: Thanks, I’ll check yours out.
    Keiko: Thanks. It’s actually much easier to find Thai ingredients in London than it is here in the US. Next time you are near Chinatown go look in one of the Chinese markets. I’m sure you could find some easily.
    Shuna: Thanks for the secret! I might try a young ginger infused creme anglaise sometimes soon.

  • Lauren said:
    September 21st, 2007 at 1:36pm

    I am going to candy some young ginger for desserts where I want some ginger flavor but not too much spice. Comments or ideas? And what about pickling? How does our young ginger stand up to that?

  • SWalthew said:
    June 29th, 2011 at 9:44pm

    Sounds good! Thanks for letting us know what young ginger is. I will look for it at specialty markets.

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    November 2nd, 2012 at 10:36am

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