Ginger, like turmeric is a rhizome, an underground stem.
That amazing sharp flavor makes so many dishes appetizing—fresh, dried or ground. Ginger has many medicinal uses but my favorite has always been the garma garam ginger flavored chai, and the crunchy bits in south Indian style lemon rice.
Once when we were kids, my brother came home after cricket practice. My parents were late coming back after visiting family (can’t remember the exact reason they were late). I had been learning to cook a few familiar dishes and most of these ended up as experimental ventures. That evening I made rice and raita but wanted to impress my brother. I decided to make something I had seen my mother make occasionally.
My mother made what we called a ‘killer thokku’ with ginger. I knew that she used very few ingredients and it was really an easy process. She always advised us to eat it sparingly because it used a lot of oil and was HOT AND SPICY. With all the elders in the family working to keep their high blood pressure under control this thokku made only a rare appearance at our table. Naturally, it disappeared after the first round or so.
The recipe called for peeled and finely chopped ginger which she spread out on a white muslin cloth. Then she ground all the ingredients into a coarse mix. Follow it from my memory I did—chopping the ginger into small pieces took time and then I ground it with roasted spices. I added the oil only to realize that I had made a mistake somewhere. I didn’t have a thokku (which is thick like a spread). My dish was more like a gravy for a vegetable dish, with slivers of ginger. I had no idea where I made the mistake. I was about to mix it with rice to see if it tasted the same when I heard my brother come home. When I told him about the sad state of the thokku, he reassured me, “It smells the same…I am sure the taste will be the same.” The two of us mixed my ginger gravy with rice and had it with shallots raita. My brother praised my cooking and said, “I was so hungry and wondered if I should bring us both dinner from outside. But you did a fabulous job!”
My parents came home and later I went to sleep very happy. But then I woke up because I heard noises…when I opened my bedroom door my brother was sitting with my parents at the dining table, eating dosa! I heard him say “She looked so worried I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it didn’t taste right.” I went back to bed happy and sad 🙂
Here’s what happened: The chopped ginger should be left to dry for a day. That was the reason for spreading it all out on the muslin cloth (not totally dry though).
The other point to remember is that when you grind the ingredients, don’t add water. Yes, you read it right! You have to add oil to help grind it into a coarse mix!
Here is the recipe for the killer ginger thokku:
Ginger 200 gms
Red chilies 50 gm
Tamarind-size of medium lime
Methi seeds (fenugreek / vendhayam) ¼ tsp
Hing (Asafeotida) -a good sized chunk
Salt to taste
Oil-50 to 100 ml
Wash the ginger thoroughly and peel. Chop it into fine pieces. Leave it to dry for a whole day. Spread it thinly over a paper towel or a piece of muslin cloth. The ginger shouldn’t dry completely but at the same time it shouldn’t be as moist a freshly cut piece of ginger.
Heat 1 Tbs of oil in a kadai. Add the hing.
Add the methi seeds and red chilies. Roast these for a few minutes and remove from stove before the mix turns brown. Let this mix cool to room temperature.
If you use fresh tamarind (not the paste) then mix the tamarind with salt to soften it. This will make it easy to grind the tamarind.
Grind the roasted spice mix and the salted tamarind coarsely in a dry blender/mixie jar.
Now add the bits of jaggery to the ground mix.
Pour the rest of the oil into the mixie jar. Yes, you grind this thokku with oil, not water!
Add the chopped and dried ginger and grind to a coarse mix.
The killer ginger thokku is ready. Set it aside for a day to let the flavors of the spices soak into the ginger.
You can mix the ginger thokku with plain rice or have it with curd rice .
(This post was written by Jyothi)