Ginger is one of my favorite spices, and Chinese dishes featuring this humble root take both savory and sweet forms. Today's kitchen experiment was ginger milk pudding, a Cantonese dessert that lets you do some cool kitchen chemistry!
Like many Chinese dishes, this one is also touted for its medicinal qualities. It is supposed to help relieve menstrual cramps and nausea, although I am going to leave that part out if I serve it at a dinner party. For that matter, I'll probably leave that tidbit of information out when I serve it to the boy tonight. Of course, I will take great joy in telling him about it after he polishes off his bowl. "Hey, good news! No PMS cramps for you!"
The allure of this recipe, for me, is that it is best made in a single serving portion. If I want ginger pudding, I make a cup of ginger pudding, not a lake of ginger pudding. It is also versatile. You can serve it warm (traditional) or chilled, much like dofu fa, a Cantonese dessert made from the leftover whey from the tofu making process. In fact, ginger pudding and dofu fa have a similar consistency, which is that of a soft custard.
A note on the ginger for this recipe: you must use old ginger, not galangal or young ginger. Older ginger has more of the protease, the milk curdling agent. Also, the ginger taste is strong! I like the strong ginger flavor, but if you are not expecting it, consider yourself warned.
To make the ginger juice, I used a Japanese ginger grater. As much as I hate one trick ponies, this grater is worth the counter space it takes up because it quickly grates ginger and does not clog up like microplanes and regular graters.
To extract the juice from the pulp, I scooped up the pulp and squeezed it with my hands. Before adding it to the recipe, I also strained the juice since a lot of pulp escaped through my fingers. I grated about an inch of ginger to yield 4 teaspoons of juice, but your results will vary.
1 cup of whole milk
1 T honey, or to taste
3-5 tsp fresh ginger juice
Combine the milk and the honey in a microwave safe glass. Heat the solution to roughly 140-170 °F (there should be a ring of bubbles around he glass and you can comfortable dip your finger into the milk without burning yourself). Using my 1400 W microwave on full power, this was 1:10 minutes.
Pour the ginger juice into a serving bowl. Pour the heated milk and honey solution into the bowl and DO NOT STIR. Wait 10 minutes, and then enjoy! If you prefer, you can make this ahead of time and serve it chilled.
In the picture below, you can see how the pudding pulls away from the sides of the bowl and how solid it is on the spoon. Like I mentioned before, this has the consistency of a soft custard.
If you experiment with different milks and sweeteners, please report back so I can try, too! I read that traditionally this is made with buffalo milk, but I'm not sure where I can get some of that around here.
3/27/09 Update: Through feedback from others who have tried this and my own experience, the amount of ginger juice needed for this to set varies. Start with 3 teaspoons (1 T) of ginger juice, and if your milk still is not setting after a minute or so, add another teaspoon of juice and mix briefly. Also, this will not work with ultra pasteurized milk.