Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, March 31, 1999

File photo
Paul Prudhomme heads to the Hilton Saturday.

Ginger the zinger
in Prudhomme

The root is up front in local
cuisine, but hidden in
Cajun country

By Betty Shimabukuro


You think you know ginger? Put chunks of it in oxtail soup, mince it for stir fry, serve it pickled with sushi?

Chef Paul Prudhomme knows ginger. It's a friend to him, a passion, an inspiration. He's studied it and dissected it and knows how it works in combination with all the foods he loves to cook.

Prudhomme, master of Louisiana cooking, treats his art as a science. When he discovered ginger in travels to Asia, he took lessons from native cooks, learning to match tastes with techniques.

"That's what cooking is all about," Prudhomme said by telephone from his Louisiana kitchen, "learning about ingredients and how to use them."

He'll pass on what he knows, some of it, anyway, Saturday at a fund-raiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters in which he'll demonstrate some of his specialties along with his long-time buddy, Sam Choy.

Prudhomme is owner of K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, host of a PBS cooking series, proprietor of his own Magic Seasoning Blends company, producer of two videos and seven cookbooks.

An eighth cookbook is on the way, "Louisiana Kitchen 2000," which includes at least 40 dishes that use ginger.

How the root is used depends in where he wants the flavor. "It is an up front taste, middle taste or a taste way in back?"

In big pieces, up front, ginger gives dishes an Asian taste, Prudhomme said. Minced and cooked in with other flavors it produces a subtler taste, almost undetectable, "but you'd miss it if it were gone." It adds dimension and an intriguing background to other tastes, he said.

"In Louisiana food I'd put it in back; I wouldn't let you taste it. I'd use it to push other flavors."

Prudhomme revels in discovering new tastes to blend with his Louisiana cuisine. Also, on trips to Asia he's discovered rice vinegars, sesame oils and mirin.

A touch of brown sesame oil goes into Bananas Bliss, his version of Bananas Foster. "Nobody can identify it, but it makes the dish so much more emotional, so much more satisfying."

Mirin goes in almost anything, Prudhomme said. "One of the things I fight to get in food is any underlying sweetness -- it's very satisfying. It just makes you happy to taste it."


A Gourmet Affair

Bullet The event: Big Brothers Big Sisters fund-raiser featuring chefs Paul Prudhomme and Sam Choy
Bullet Dates: 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday
Bullet Place: Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Ballroom
Bullet Tickets: $150
Bullet Call: 521-3811

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