Most of us who venture into the world of Indian cooking (outside of India) are introduced to the spice turmeric in its bright yellow ground form as opposed to the fresh form which looks so similar to fresh ginger. Turmeric gives a beautiful color to rice and meats and is a popular ingredient in curry dishes, different types of biryani and even American mustard. For this reason, it’s often referred to as Indian saffron.
I stumbled upon this turmeric at a large supermarket in the Chicago suburbs. It’s not overtly advertised as an international market, but as many grocers in metropolitan areas serve a larger international community, they shouldn’t be overlooked for what they hold inside. In fact, this market had everything from Indian to Mexican to Polish and even Middle Eastern and Asian food products that are normally found at small specialty shops.
This fresh turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is actually the rhizome (group of roots) part of the plant and the part that is used to make the powder often used in cooking. It’s boiled then dried and ground.
It’s also used quite similarly to ginger. It should be peeled first, then chopped or grated to use in cooking much like you would use the powder. I often use a spoon to scrape the skin, but you can also use a vegetable peeler. Look at that bright orange color- isn’t it beautiful?
Once the turmeric is peeled, use a cheese grater to get sizeable amounts to work with. I suggest wearing gloves and nothing that you would be upset about ruining (i.e. white clothing). I have white counters and it was everywhere, but I was able to clean if off immediately with a toxic-free cleanser. My hands, however, were a totally different story. I wanted to experiment to see what I had to do to get it off my hands and even lemon and white vinegar took a good day of scrubbing to wipe it off completely. This stuff would make good henna art!
I used this turmeric root in one sitting because I made a huge pot of lamb stew, but it would also be great in my Turmeric & Ginger Chicken Saute recipe.
How about you? Have you ever used fresh turmeric? What’s your favorite way to use this spice- fresh or ground?
A Note About Turmeric for Good Health
I first gained an affinity for turmeric nearly ten years ago when I visited an ayurvedic doctor who recommended I use turmeric powder (or haldi, as he called it) in warm milk to reduce internal inflammation. At first, I was turned off by the prescription, but it actually tasted quite good. Now, even Dr. Oz talks about turmeric’s amazing healing properties quite often on his show.*
*Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. Consult a physican before using any herbs or spices as medicine to avoid adverse reactions.