A tried and tested recipe for making perfect ginger milk curd, a popular Cantonese dessert with an interesting flavour and silky texture.
I fell in love with ginger milk curd “at first taste” years ago. Its unusual flavour combination and silky, slippery texture was a new experience on my palate. I didn’t realize back then that it was so simple to make. You only need ginger, milk and sugar, without using any curdling agent or any sophisticated culinary technique. However, producing a curd with the right texture is a tricky business. Through trial and error, I’ve finally found a formula to make the perfect ginger milk curd.
Originating in Shawan town, Guangdong province in China, ginger milk curd (姜汁撞奶) is one of the most popular desserts in Cantonese cuisine. The literal meaning of its Chinese name is “ginger juice bumping into milk”. As the name suggests, you simply pour hot milk onto ginger juice, then you’ll have a bowl of curd. It’s rather magical, isn’t it? This is how Wikipedia explains its biochemical principle:
“Ginger contains the protease zingipain. When milk is added to ginger juice, this protease catalyses denaturation of the protein in the milk, changing it from a water-soluble form to a water-insoluble form, and leads to the formation of milk curd. ”
It was purely out of curiosity that I first tried to make this dessert. Unfortunately, I soon realized that I couldn’t always guarantee success. Sometimes I would end up with a bowl of lumpy milk or even just liquid. In order to find a fail-proof formula, I’ve done lots of research and kitchen experiments. There were two questions to which I was keen to find answers.
1. What is the best ratio of ginger juice, milk and sugar? Too much ginger juice will make the dessert too spicy to enjoy, then you will need quite a bit of sugar to balance the flavour. If the ginger juice is not enough, the curdling process won’t be triggered. In my recipe, I use 1 tablespoon of ginger juice for 200ml milk. This way the curd is firm enough and the spiciness is compensated with 2 teaspoons of sugar. It creates an ideal taste for me personally (like most Chinese, I don’t have a sweet tooth). If you like it sweeter, I suggest pouring a little honey over the curd as ginger and honey is a classic flavour combination .
2. What is the optimum temperature for the milk? And is there any other way to get it right without using a thermometer? I’ve found many recipes with vague instructions: “the milk is hot to touch with your tongue but won’t burn you”, “heat up the milk until it almost boils”, “the milk should be at 70-80°C”, etc. It doesn’t always work when following those recipes. Eventually I bought a kitchen thermometer (that was £2.99 well spent) to experiment. 70°C/158°F appeared to be the right answer. Apart from heating the milk on a stove, I also tried using a microwave. For a 800-watt microwave like mine, you need 1 minute and 40 second to heat the milk (chilled) to an ideal temperature (add the sugar half way through). If your microwave has a different wattage, please see the conversion suggestion in recipe note.
Volià! That’s it! To me, cooking is an art. However, my ginger milk curd experiments remind me that it’s also a scientific endeavour .
Hope you find this post interesting. Have a great day!