"Adrak Lehsan" is one of the cornerstones of Pakistani and Indian cooking. Just about every Pakistani recipe seems to start with cooking onions and then adding Adrak and Lehsan ka paste. Adrak by the way is Ginger and Lehsan is Garlic
Traditionally Garlic and Ginger were freshly minced or pounded in mortar and pestles or similar instruments to create a flavorful base for recipes. In these modern times the pastes i.e. the ground up in a blender version of Ginger Paste and Garlic Paste is the most popular. That brings us to our first Ginger Paste question.
Is Ginger Paste better than using fresh ginger?
In terms of flavour the answer is no. Freshly ground (or grated) ginger will always bring a zestier flavour to a dish than it's ground up relation. However, given the frequency with which we use it in Pakistani (and Indian) food it makes the cooking process harder and more time consuming to have to make it fresh every single time. There are times in my recipes like this Green Beans Sabzi where I will specify fresh, but for the most of it the paste is your friend.
Is store-bought Ginger Paste good?
Again, the answer is no. With very few exceptions (usually housed in the freezer section), storebought pastes use a preservative, usually vinegar or something similar. If I wanted to add vinegar to my recipes, I would. I don't.
That element of vinegar changes the flavour profile of your dish enough so that I strongly urge you to make your own paste. Or at the very least buy it from the freezer section and read the label to make sure it's preservative free.
Should I make my Ginger Paste with Water or Oil?
Okay this was a fun question to answer. I have always used water, simply because my Mama did. However, a foodie friend on Instagram suggested I try making the paste with oil. I was intrigued enough to give it a shot and did two things in the interest of food science.
1.) I made two batches of ginger paste, one with water and one with oil.
2.) I stored the pastes for three weeks and did a weekly check in on the pastes by a.) aroma and b.) putting them in a 'regular' curry
Here is what I learnt:
The ginger paste made with oil outperformed the one made with water on both metrics (aroma and flavour) at week one and at week two. At week three the aroma had faded and the taste had too.
What does this mean for storing the paste?
In a nutshell however you make it a two week amount seems the right amount to make. HOWEVER, (pay attention folks), the batch that I froze showed me something else. Regardless of whether you made it with water or oil the paste held up very well when frozen right after making. I used an ice cube tray with a lid for this and would just pop the cube straight from the freezer into the pot when cooking.
Why should I make a paste with just ginger?
I do see how often a ginger garlic paste is made and used in recipes, but I never make just one. Here is why: their flavours are different and sometimes how much you add of one versus the other changes the balance of a dish. For example in Chicken Kalia recipe I use only Garlic paste, in Aloo Gobi I use more garlic than ginger. Changing quantities changes the flavour.
Will it be bad? no not necessarily, but it won't be as good as intended.
How do I make Ginger Paste?
If your grinder is good you can not even tell the difference. Your welcome.
Step Two: cut it up into small chunks - this will make it both quicker and damage your blender less.
Step Three: Add the liquid (water or oil) and blitz till smooth. A pinch of salt can help break down tougher ginger too!
Then simply store what you will use for the next 2-3 weeks in an air tight jar and freeze the rest. You can freeze it in ice cube trays like below and transfer the cubes to a ziploc bag for easier storage.
A little troubleshooting
The problem: My Ginger Paste is never smooth
I'd blame that on the quality of the blender blades. I use the mini blender attachment for this blender to make mine and it works like a charm.
The problem: My Ginger Paste became too watery
Just chop and add a little more in or add more of it to recipes.
The problem: My Ginger Paste is at that three week mark, now what?
It is not, and I repeat, NOT, the end of the world. Simply increase the quantity you are using in your recipe to compensate for the mellower flavour. While ginger paste is an important part of the cooking process it is not the end all and be all. Use up your paste as is. Freeze whatever you think you can't use for a little bit.
- 1 mini blender
- 1 cup sliced ginger (washed, unpeeled) 140g
- ⅓ cup neutral oil - vegetable or olive
- Combine your ginger slices and oil in a mini blender and puree till smooth, adding a little extra liquid if necessary.
- If your blender is not very powerful then add half the ginger and all of the oil and puree. Once smooth then add remaining ginger.
- If you want to use water for the ginger paste you absolutely can, just freeze what you aren't using within the next two weeks.