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Essential in Asian cookery spanning from the Middle East, to South East Asia, and East Asia, ginger is a remarkably diverse tuber that can offer a range of flavors based on how it is cut.
When diced into fine brunoise, it offers a subtle, spicy, citrus-like aroma to stir fried and sautées. Cut into matchstick-shaped julienne, it becomes the dominant element of a dish. Try it stir fried with sliced beef, basil leaves, and just a touch of soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and chicken stock for a quick and delicious meal. If, instead, you grate it, it lends a wonderful freshness and heat to marinades and dressings.
Shopping and Storage
Ginger comes in hand-shaped chunks, and the more "fingers" are removed, the faster it'll dry out. Look for ginger that is still in largish chunks, with relatively few areas with no skin. The skin should be light brown and very tight and smooth. Wrinkled skin is an indication of old, dried out ginger.
The best way to store fresh ginger is actually the easiest: Just toss it directly into your vegetable crisper without any kind of wrapping. Out of the fridge, it'll rapidly dehydrate. Wrap it with plastic, and you'll have the opposite problem—moisture will get trapped against the surface, causing it to mold. Unwrapped, the only portion that should dry out is the cut surface, which should be trimmed before using the rest of the ginger. It should hold in the fridge for at least a few weeks.
Ginger peels and scraps still have plenty of flavor. I keep a 1-pint container of soy sauce in my refrigerator to which I add all of my ginger (and garlic) scraps. It flavors the soy sauce, making an excellent base for dumpling sauce, or as a replacement for regular soy sauce in certain stir fries.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.