Torch Ginger flower buds have sweet and sour, wonderful citrus-forward notes, which can increasingly enhance the taste of Southeast Asian dishes.
- Scientific name: Etlingera elatior
- Indonesia: Kecombrang, kantan, honje (Sunda/West java), rias (Tapanuli/North Sumatra), kincung (Medan/North Sumatra), bungong kala (Aceh/North Sumatra), kincuang and sambuang (Minangkabau/West Sumatra), kecicang (Bali)
- Common names: ginger flower, red ginger lily, torch lily, wild ginger
What is Torch Ginger?
Torch ginger flower is one of the regular herbs used in local Indonesian food. It grows in tropical and sub-tropical regions, from Hawaii to Congo and the Philippines, but it is native to Malaysia and Indonesia.
The flower earns its name from its elongated, curved shape similar to a flaming torch. The flowers come in red, white, and pink colors, with variations. The pink color is more common because it bears more flowers.
What Does Torch Ginger Taste Like?
Torch ginger flowers are commonly consumed when the buds are somewhat closed. The flower is quite waxy from the outside. However, when you cut them in half, that’s where the aroma and fragrance come through.
The taste is slightly sour and astringent with a crisp texture. It has a distinctive taste and smell, which can increasingly enhance the taste of dishes. It smells sweet and sour, with wonderful, invigorating citrus-forward notes between lemongrass and ginger.
How to Use Torch Ginger
The bud is the most commonly used part in cooking, although the whole plant is actually edible. The flowers are best used fresh and are utilized as a garnish or flavoring. They are typically finely sliced. The raw flowers can be tossed into salads, shredded, and blended into dips and sauces, or used whole as a food wrap
The flowers can also be incorporated into seafood dishes, stirred into stews, soups, curries, and rice. It is traditionally paired with fish and seafood rather than meat because it has citrusy and gingery flavors that mask the fishy odors.
The flowers should be used immediately for the best quality and flavor. However, they can also be frozen or dried for extended use.
Where Do You Get Torch Ginger?
When in season, torch ginger flowers are widely found in fresh markets in Indonesia or other Southeast Asia countries. However, it is one of the toughest ingredients to get overseas.
Choosing Torch Ginger
Generally, torch ginger is sold in the form of flower buds and slightly blooms. Choose fresh pink flowers, and make sure there are no blemishes or black spots on the buds. Young flowers (small buds) don’t smell as strong as mature flowers, but they are still suitable for stir-fry.
How to Prepare
- Peel away and discard tough outer layers of the flower buds.
- Cut off the stalk.
- Cut into half.
- Remove the hard triangular core by cutting into the core at an angle where the stalk meets the petals of the buds. If the core is still soft and not hard, you can skip this step.
- Place the halves, cut side down, on the cutting board. Then, slice thinly with a sharp knife.
How to Store
The buds have a shelf life of about a week. Wrap them in several layers of paper towels to absorb any moisture, place them in a plastic bag or container in the fridge. You can also freeze the sliced buds. However, freezing will make them lose some of their flavor and aroma.