Editor’s note: The theme of Gohan Lab is to help people make simple, tasty “gohan” (meals).

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Classic Cantonese dessert ginger milk pudding caps our series on sweets. Though it tastes great when chilled, it’s served slightly warm in China. The ginger’s spiciness gives an edge to its silky white appearance.

In this intriguing dessert, the milk turns jiggly through the power of an enzyme found in ginger. All it takes are ginger, milk and sugar.

One tip for having it turn out well is maintaining the right temperature. The enzyme in ginger is said to function best at around 60 degrees and will no longer work when the temperature is 70 degrees or above.

When heating the milk, the stove should be turned off just before reaching 70 degrees as the milk’s temperature will dip a little when you pour the milk in a bowl.

“Use a thermometer to measure exactly,” says Katsuhiko Yoshida, who oversaw the recipe’s cooking aspect.

The arranged version offers milk pudding topped with bacon and clams, which tastes somewhat like a cream stew and makes for an interesting side dish.

DON’T FRET IF PUDDING DOESN’T SET

This week’s recipe, instead of using gelatin or agar, relies on the reaction of an enzyme found in ginger juice, which may lead the pudding to not set properly.

“The quantity of the enzyme and its function differ depending on where the ginger was produced and which part of it is used,” says Midori Kasai, a professor emeritus at Ochanomizu University, who supervised the cooking science aspect of the recipe.

“If the pudding fails to set, try using more ginger or choosing a different ginger.”

That process of trial and error by changing the ingredient or quantity is also a good way to enjoy Gohan Lab. Even if the milk fails to set, you could enjoy it as ginger milk.

BASIC COOKING METHOD

(Supervised by Katsuhiko Yoshida in the cooking aspect and Midori Kasai in the cookery science aspect)

* Ingredients and Cooking Utensils (Serves one)

30 grams ginger, 200 ml milk, 2 tsp sugar, thermometer

About 165 kcal and 0.2 gram salt per portion

1. Grate ginger, wrap in kitchen paper and squeeze out juice (PHOTO A). There should be about 1 Tbsp juice but since water content of ginger determines the amount of juice, grate more ginger if juice is not enough.

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PHOTO A: The fiber and skin can be removed if the ginger juice is squeezed through kitchen paper. Since the starch in the juice will settle with time, mix before using. (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

2. Pour milk in small pot and mix in sugar. Place on low heat and warm while checking the temperature with a thermometer. To avoid diminishing the function of enzyme in ginger juice waiting to be mixed, turn off heat just before temperature reaches 70 degrees (PHOTO B).

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PHOTO B: During the cooking process, milk (about 18 degrees) reached 69 degrees in about 1 minute and 40 seconds. Warm on low heat while checking the thermometer as the temperature will shoot up once it starts to rise. (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

3. Add ginger juice in bowl and pour warmed milk at once (PHOTO C). Temperature of milk will fall, nearing the temperature at which ginger’s enzyme works best. Leave for 4 to 5 minutes.

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PHOTO C: Add the warm milk in one go. Wait for the enzyme to react and the milk to set without mixing. (Photo by Masahiro Goda)
Tips on making ginger milk pudding (Video by Masahiro Goda)

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Katsuhiko Yoshida is the owner chef of Jeeten, a restaurant in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Uehara offering Chinese home cooking.

Midori Kasai is a professor emeritus at Ochanomizu University and former chairwoman of the Japan Society of Cookery Science.

ARRANGED VERSION

Ginger milk pudding as a side dish (Serves one)

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Ginger milk pudding as a side dish (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

Cut 15 grams bacon into pieces 1-cm wide. Finely slice 1/8 onion. Add 1 tsp oil in frying pan on low heat, add bacon, onion, 15 grams of boiled clam without shell and stir-fry. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Turn off heat when bacon has browned. Place on ginger milk pudding. Mix topping and pudding when you eat.

COOKERY SCIENCE

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The Asahi Shimbun

Although milk protein is less likely to change when simply heated, the addition of ginger juice will cause the enzyme to break down part of the protein. This leads the protein to change into a structure that sets easily. When meat is marinated in ginger juice before heating, the protein is broken down and it is less likely to turn out tough when heated.

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Gohan Lab column