Thursday, 24 November 2016

Chekur: A Ginger Experiment

So, what is the favourite herb of the Better-Half?

It is Chekur (or Cekur).

Chekur (Kaempferia galanga) is a member of the ginger family of plants. Unlike common ginger root, Chekur root is very difficult to locate in Sydney… In fact, we have never seen it in any Sydney market or fruit-and-vegetable store.

Therein lies the basic problem for a woman of Peranakan heritage: you cannot have Hainanese Chicken Rice without the Chekur: for her, it is just not Chicken Rice.... although common ginger will suffice.

Necessity being the mother of invention, the Better-Half found a solution. During our holidays in Malaysia over the past few years, she has ventured to the Klang markets to purchase a kilogram of her precious ingredient. The Chekur is then fried, until fragrant, in a goodly amount of oil, with a little salt added, and bottled for the return journey. In line with Australia’s strict quarantine laws, upon declaration, cooked gingers are permitted entry through Australian Customs, whereas the unprocessed roots are not: they will be confiscated.

This spring, we discussed the purchase of a growing Chekur root from a Queensland tropical herb nursery. In deciding to go ahead with the purchase, we surmised that the Chekur should sprout just like our other gingers, largely unaffected by Sydney’s cooler weather. So, ahead we went, adding a root of Thai Krachai to the interstate shipment.

The dormant rhizomes arrived in September. We immediately potted them up, keeping them relatively dry during the cooler weather of September and October. When the warmer days of November rolled along, the Chekur was planted in its growing position under our jackfruit tree. Even then, we could see that the little knobby buds were beginning to develop on the rhizome… anticipation of things to come!

A Chekur rhizome with its first buds apparent

Over the past week, the Chekur has put out its first rosette of ground-hugging leaves… and every morning, I go out to check it, only to find that it has been buried under a layer of mulch by our marauding blackbirds, seeking out juicy garden worms. The ‘demulching’ of the Chekur has become a morning ritual, requiring an innovation, the construction of a little mesh cover to prevent damage from the scratching and scrounging of the blackbird family.

First shoots appear

Exhibiting some 'scratch' marks, but nevertheless quite healthy

With some good fortune, we will have plentiful supplies of Chekur in years to come. Not only is it an important ingredient of the famous Hainanese Chicken Rice, but also a valuable component of stir-fried and roast chicken dishes… Ground Chekur is also an excellent partner for pork.

A temporary cover to dissuade the marauding blackbirds

Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…

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