One time when I was in Vietnam, I experienced for the first time what David Lebovitz describes as the “zip” of ginger syrup. I was about seven years old and I had gone to visit my grandparents, to meet them all for the first time. My parents had immigrated to Canada before I was born, but the rest of my family was still back in Vietnam. I was introduced to a lot of Vietnamese fruits and vegetables, and of course, traditional desserts. One of which, is sweet silken tofu in a sugar syrup. It was one of my favourite things to eat with my mom when I was growing up.
In my grandparent’s neighbourhood in Saigon, people with yokes or carts of phá»Ÿ, candy, or other desserts would walk up and down the narrow alleys between the houses and shout out what they were selling. My grandma knew that my mom and I liked tofu, so they called in the tofu vendor. She scooped up some bowls of that light, silken tofu and spooned out that precious sugar syrup and I eagerly sat with my bowl, waiting for my mom and grandma to get their bowls as well.
Once we all had our servings, the tofu lady covered the buckets of tofu and syrup, and picked up the yoke again to begin her call down the streets. I was so excited to dig in, I took a massive spoonful (you know, those metal, wide asian spoons that are perfect for soup) and felt the smooth texture of tofu, andâ€”BLAH.
I swallowed quickly with alarm the same way people do when they swallow burning hot chocolate. You can’t spit it out but you know you don’t want it in your mouth anymore so you just swallow because it’s not a happy feeling in your mouth.
“Blahhhh what’s in this?” (Except in Vietnamese, Aaahhhh cÃ¡i gÃ¬ trong Ä‘Ã³ vay?)
I remember my grandma looking confused and thoroughly enjoying her tofu, and my mom just laughing as she realized what I meant when she had a spoonful.
Little did seven-year-old me know, but that sweet syrup was laced with ginger.
Ever since then, I had a huge aversion for ginger. It was a flavour that just caught me off guard and because of that one experience, I avoided all the Vietnamese candies and foods that had ginger in it. Seven-year-old Lisa didn’t like surprises, okay?
The funny thing is, I feel like ginger is one of those flavours that kind of just grows on you, or rather, you learn to appreciate it when you’re older. Kind of like how your tolerance for cloyingly sweet treats diminishes as you get older. Flavours like ginger, dates, dried fruits, and black coffee somehow become much more palatable around the age of 22/23. Well, it did for me at least.
For some odd reason now, I love ginger. Candied ginger, pickled ginger in between different types of sushi, gingerale.
I don’t know what got over me. But I love it.
I am also appreciating dates, dried apricots, and even raisins. Yes, I’m even liking grapes without souls.
When I saw David Lebovitz post his recipe for fresh ginger syrup, I knew I had to make it. I just love the way he writes about food, and the knowledge and techniques he imparts is just so amazing. Sometimes I wish I could spend a day with him around food and just listen. Hear his stories of working in restaurants and bakeries in Paris, let him talk about his trips to the farmers markets; it’d be a marvellous day, don’t you think?
Try this out with some carbonated water and a squeeze of lemon juice, over some silken dessert tofu, or as a sweetener in your tea or coffee.
Recipe from David Lebovitz
- 6 inches of ginger, rinsed and sliced thinly then chopped into small strips (roughly 2 cups of sliced ginger), peeling not necessary
- 4 cups of water
- 2 cups white granulated sugar
- a dash of salt
- In a pot, boil ginger, water, sugar and salt for about 1 hour.
- Strain the ginger pieces and set aside to cool.
- Store in an airtight bottle for up to a week.
- To make ginger soda, mix equal parts ginger soda and carbonated water, add a squeeze of lemon juice and pour over ice.
Finally, thanks for dealing with my super late post! This week has been a whirlwind of business but I have truly been touched by all the comments that you have written in myÂ reader survey.Â Honestly I’m so surprised that my blog has done so well and grown so much since I started it back in 2011. I feel so lucky to have such wonderful and kind readers <3 Thank you so much for reading, commenting, sharing, pinning, and giving me your feedback!