Many moons ago, I worked with Bruce Cost at the now-shuttered Monsoon restaurant in San Francisco. Bruce is an amazing Asian cook and I’ve rarely had better Chinese food than what came out of his wok. Early on, he prompted me to make a sharp, gingery syrup that we could serve at the bar, as an elixir, mixed with fresh lime juice and sparkling water. And although the customers loved it, the reason I later found out why I was going through so much ginger syrup every week was that the staff liked it even more.
In Australia, I remember seeing big bins of fresh ginger in the supermarket (I always try to go to a supermarket in a foreign country – it’s one of my favorite things to do.) And when I was telling some Australians how intriguing it was how they’ve adopted Asian ingredients, like fresh ginger, into their cuisine, a few looked at me kind of funny,and said that they considered fresh ginger just be to an ingredient they happened to use frequently – not necessarily Asian.
I love fresh ginger, especially in desserts, since it seems to compliment – and contrast – other flavors so nicely. It’s especially welcome with things that tend to be sweet; white chocolate, tropical fruits, and peaches all come to mind. And I always try to keep fresh ginger on hand, stocking up whenever I’m at an Asian market in Paris, since it lasts for a while. It also freezes well, and some people grate, roll it into a tube, then freeze it for later, and they can just break off a portion easily when they need it.
Whenever I don’t feel well, especially when felled by the infamous la gastro, I always crave a glass of ginger ale. I don’t keep soda in stock because I’m not a big soda-drinker. (However when faced with a bottle of ginger ale or ginger beer, all bets are off.) But when I’m lying in bed, nearly unable to move, I always regret not keeping a bottle on hand. (Which, of course, I would drink just because it was there. So I don’t.)
In France, although it’s not very traditional to drink soda with meals, it’s become much more commonplace. And when a friend was coming for dinner and told me he couldn’t drink alcohol because he was taking a round of medication, I simmered up a batch of ginger syrup for him, so he wouldn’t look at my constantly refilled (and emptied) wine glass so longingly.
My strategy kind of worked, except that I drank most of the syrup myself before the dinner and had to make more. Which wasn’t such a bad thing since I am pretty well stocked on fresh ginger. And I hope I can keep myself well-stocked with ginger syrup, too.
Fresh Ginger Syrup
- 8 ounces (225g) fresh ginger, unpeeled
- 4 cups (1L) water
- 2 cups (400g) sugar
- pinch salt
- Cut the ginger into thin slices. Run a knife over it to chop it into rough, smaller pieces. (As shown in the post.)
- Place the ginger along with the water, sugar, and salt in a nonreactive saucepan. Heat to a boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer, and cook for 45 minutes to one hour.
- Let cool, then strain the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer. Store the strained syrup in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use. The syrup should keep for at least two weeks under refrigeration.