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Ginger

Ginger must be one of the oldest and most widely-known spices in the world, with references in the writings of Confucius. Known in Arabic as zanjabil, ginger is also mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, where in Surah al-Insan it is said to be one of the fruits found in heaven which await the righteous: “And they will be given to drink there of a cup mixed with zanjabil (ginger)” (Q. 76:17).

Ginger plant in Malaysia

Ginger plant in Malaysia
Photo by Izham Khalid

Fresh ginger is an essential ingredient in Asian cooking, especially for meat curries and soups. Like most spices, ginger must be used in moderation or else it gives an overpowering taste. In Malay cooking, the amount of ginger used in a dish is usually described as being ‘as big as a thumb’.

Ginger can be pickled and made into chutneys, while tender young ginger can be eaten as a salad. Apart from fresh ginger, ginger is also used in powdered form as a flavouring for cakes, sweets and drinks.

Ginger food and drink products

Ginger food and drink products
Photo by Taufiq Wan

The medicinal properties of ginger are endless. Ginger causes one to sweat and it is effective as a digestive aid. For the Malays and the Chinese, ginger is believed to dispel ‘wind’ in the body. It is regarded as one of the most essential ingredients in food prepared for women in confinement following childbirth. Midwives usually advise their patients to put generous portions of ginger in their food as it helps to stimulate blood circulation and ‘warms’ up the body. In Chinese belief, ginger and wine are vital aids for new mothers on their ‘road to recovery’ after childbirth.

 

Norhayati Zulkifli

Norhayati Zulkifli

According to a practitioner of traditional Malay massage, Norhayati Zulkifli, ginger is good for detoxifying the body and helps to restore the womb back to its original size.  She believes that during the first week after giving birth it is best to avoid red meat, and thus salted fish with ginger, or fish soup with more than the usual amount of ginger, is preferred.

Read Tuk Din's recipe for Fish Soup with Ginger

Although the beauty industry is now flooded with slimming products in bottles and in the form of lotions in tubes, according to India’s ‘Traditional Knowledge Digital Library’, there is evidence of the fat-burning properties of ginger found in the ancient Ayurveda texts dating back to the fifth century.

Text by Nur Hannah Wan: Interview with Norhayati Zulkifli, practitioner of traditional Malay massage based in Luton, 17 December 2010.

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