Spicy! A Cup of Ginger Tea for Your Winter Woes

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That’s how I’d describe my mum’s ginger tea, or as it’s called in Indonesian, wedang jahe. Ginger tea is wonderful on a cold wintry day. I love how the viscous liquid slides down my throat and warms my chest–it’s my drink of choice as I curl up in front of a toasty fire for a riveting read (no offense to all you hot chocolate fans out there). My mum insists that the secret to great ginger tea is daun pandan (pandan or screwpine leaf) syrup. “Supaya harum,” she says, or to make it smell good.

So the first step is to make the pandan syrup…

Pandan Syrup

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All it is is a simple syrup steeped with pandan leaves. You can find pandan leaves frozen (and to my utter delight, sometimes fresh!) at any Asian grocery store. This heady, fragrant leaf (I’ve heard people describe it’s flavor and fragrance as coconut-ty and it’s even compared to buttered popcorn!). Sometimes called the Asian vanilla, the pandan leaf, in my opinion, has no substitute.

Like all simple syrups, the ratio of sugar to water is 2:1 so you can adjust amounts according to your needs. Use 1 pandan leaf for every cup of sugar. The cooled syrup can be bottled and keeps in the refrigerator indefinitely.  You can use the syrup to sweeten regular tea too.

Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 2-1/2 cups

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 pandan leaves, trimmed and tied into separate knots

In a medium 2-quart saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring a boil. Lower heat and stir continuously until sugar dissolves, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove leaves and reserve syrup.

My Mum’s Wedang Jahe a.k.a. Ginger Tea

Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 8 servings

8 oz fresh ginger root (2 knobs, each about the size of your palm)
4 cups water
1/2 cup pandan syrup (above)

Smash ginger with flat part of a cleaver or large knife’s blade until the skin splits and the inner flesh is exposed.

In a large 6 quart pot, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. The longer you simmer, the stronger the ginger tea.

Strain and serve.

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