Treading Gingerly on Garlic

In the last two years, I've really learned to make use of ginger-garlic paste.

Though books repeatedly tell you of the wonderful properties of ginger, specially the use of its thickening effects in Indian cooking, its only recently that I practically stumbled upon what exactly they mean. Ginger-garlic paste, added to hot oil or ghee and simmered on a low flame till it becomes vaguely gelatinous and releases oil. The trick is to make sure the paste is free-flowing and not very dry, and the simmer is slow and long. Keep simmering it undisturbed till the paste browns slightly at the bottom and you can smell it caramelizing.

How much ginger to garlic? I used to use roughly equal quantities, but my favoured mixture now is about 50% more garlic than ginger. Garlic, in particular, mellows with heat so more garlic makes sense, but I learned this from Jiggs Kalra's book of recipes. The other trick is to be generous in quantities of ginger-garlic paste - that's what makes your silky gravies.

This is not a general gyan blog entry. It seems simple and obvious, but getting it right has taken me years of experimentation and transformed my non-veg food from the good to sublime (sure, its me saying it about myself, but remember I eat enough of the best food and throw away enough of my own food to know what I'm talking about). The gravies come out silky and decadent, finally approaching the best Indian food I've ever had in the bylanes of Lucknow and Kolkata. Ginger garlic paste does not deaden the taste of spices the way onion paste does, hence the widespread use in Awadhi food with its prevalence of subtle spices that onion paste would have murdered. See, for instance, my post on the rezala.

The summary:

1. Use a free-flowing paste of ginger and garlic in a 1:2 ration. Excess water is ok, too little water will cause the paste to burn 2. Be very generous with the quantity - its possible to underuse but difficult to overuse 3. Simmer slow and long in adequate amounts of ghee till the paste has been reduced to a gelatinous mass, the water is gone and the oil shows on the surface.

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