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How to mince ginger with just 1 simple step: 'A game changer'

It's the go-to technique for chefs J. Kenji López-Alt and Martin Yan.
Grated ginger on a chopping board
Grated or minced ginger is used to spice up everything from scrambled eggs to cake.Leithan Partnership t/a The Picture Pantry / Alamy Stock Photo
/ Source: TODAY

Whether you're firing up the skillet for a chicken dinner or the stockpot for a batch of your favorite soup, you're probably reaching for a key aromatic like fresh ginger. Whether grated, minced or sliced, it packs a flavorful, fiery punch. But have you ever left it out of a recipe because peeling and chopping it seemed too daunting a task?

Well, cookbook author J. Kenji López-Alt has the one-step solution to all that trouble — and all you need is a knife.

On Thursday, López-Alt shared a brief-but-mesmerizing video of his preferred mincing method.

“This is the easiest way to mince ginger for a stir-fry, FYI,” he wrote alongside a seven-second video of himself using a Chinese cleaver to crush a ginger coin. In the clip, he simply brings the wide knife just several inches above the ginger on a wooden cutting board and gives the ginger a good, hearty smash. He adds one more follow-up smash for good measure before zooming the camera in for a clearer close-up of the finely minced ginger.

Since the video was shared, it has already received nearly 160,000 views and almost 400 comments, with many expressing their surprise and disbelief at the easy trick. One commenter replied, “My mind is blown,” and someone else added, "This is a game changer 👌🏼."

“One of the many dozens of tricks the old Chinese cleaver has up its sleeve," another person chimed in.

In the comments section, López-Alt offered some more details to inquiring followers.

“I’d assume you have to cut the slice across the grain first? Or does it still work just not as well,” one user asked.

“Yes. Slice across the grain first,” López-Alt responded.

“Could I do this with another kitchen tool if I don’t have a knife this size?” asked another user, to which López-Alt suggested simply, “A skillet.”

“The Food Lab” author also commented that the knife-smash method works well with garlic and added that if he were mincing a lot of garlic, he would reach for a mortar and pestle.

Life Stories: Martin Yan

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In an email, López-Alt explained to TODAY Food, "I think I first saw this when I was a kid watching Martin Yan cook on his TV show in the '80s. I've also seen chef Wang Gang (a Sichuan chef with a YouTube channel with over a million subscribers) do it. It's a common technique when you're working with a heavy knife like a cleaver or Chinese chef's knife."

Chef Martin Yan rose to fame as the star host of 1978's "Yan Can Cook," which was broadcast on PBS stations in the U.S., and today, he's still active as a food ambassador, working with charity organizations and doing Zoom events for different companies during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 71-year-old chef, who still cooks every day, described his simple method for mincing ginger in a phone call with TODAY. "When you are doing a small amount, it doesn't make sense to use a chopper or mincer, and then … you can't even get it out," he said. "So, the easiest way to do it is … just put the piece of ginger on a cutting board and you smash it, but you smash it at a special angle. If you don't smash it in the special angle, they would not split into minced ginger.

"I do it in a special way and use a flat Chinese chef's knife. The blade is wider. So when you smash them, they basically break it up. If you don't have that, you have to use your hand to crush it, just like most French chefs, most Western chefs, when they press garlic. First, they have to put the garlic underneath the blade, and then they have to pound it, and then they have to mince it, but the way I do it is I put it in, boom, it's done."

Yan demonstrated his technique for TODAY back in 2011. In his recent call, he shared more details: "I swing my knife a little bit. I smash it with like a concave curve. … So basically, when I crush it … the blade of the knife actually spreads the crushed ginger."

López-Alt says the reaction to his video was something he expected: "Lots of people who are unfamiliar and are happy to have learned something new, many people who are familiar and just pass on through, and a few people who are familiar and use the opportunity to explain that they already knew and look down on people who are just learning something for the first time. I don't have much patience for know-it-alls.

"We all learn new things all the time, and I always try and encourage that and encourage people to be enthusiastic about learning new tricks and techniques. That's how we all get better."