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Apr 8, 2012 10:56 AM

Fresh turmeric root

I've come across fresh turmeric on occasion in Kalustyan's & Dual Specialty Store, and have always been drawn to it, but also a little afraid of it.

It kind of looks like small ginger, but with a brilliant, gorgeous golden yellow/orange flesh.

Does anyone have advice on how to use it? Is it worth the extra effort? Even powdered dried turmeric stains hands, dishware, even clothes worn the next day after cooking with it, so I approach the fresh stuff with a measure of hesitation.

Also, has anyone seen it anywhere besides the places I mentioned?

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  1. Saw it at Whole Foods Bowery yesterday...

    As to how to use it: latex gloves. Wear old clothes you don't mind getting stained.

    Turmeric has a fairly mild flavor - yes, the fresh stuff is more intense, but it's not a terribly intense spice to begin with. I'll use it if I'm doing something for a dinner party and I need it - but for just whipping up a weeknight rendang I won't bother, the powder works fine. It not as extreme a difference as between, say, fresh and powdered ginger.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sgordon

      Hi, thank you for the tips! That's very helpful advice. I will definitely have to try it sometime when cooking a special dish for a group of people. Otherwise, it sounds like it's not really worth the hassle.

      One more question - a lot of the pieces of turmeric I saw in those stores looked kind of...moldy. Is that normal? Is it safe to eat as long as you cut off the moldy parts?

    2. The only place I've seen it reliably is Integral Yoga on West 13th. Whole Foods Bowery tends to be fickle. You can also get it at some of the markets in Chinatown -- the Thai store on Mosco Street, Udom Grocery. I don't remember Udom Grocery but turmeric root at Mosco Street store is pretty expensive. You're better off going to WF Bowery (only that location as I've never seen it at the Chelsea, Tribeca, UWS, Union Square ones) or Integral Yoga.

      I juice it for health benefits. This morning had an Asian pear, ginger and turmeric juice for breakfast. Really delicious! For cooking I tend to use the powdered though I did use fresh turmeric to make babi guling (Balinese roast pork) once.

      14 Replies
      1. re: Miss Needle

        Wow, crazy! I had no idea that Integral Yoga had a grocery component! That's really interesting, thanks so much. And thanks also for the ideas of where else to find it.

        I never thought of juicing it, but that sounds delicious, and now that I think about it, I have seen drinks for sale in stores that have fresh turmeric in them...they are sometimes as much as $8 for a tiny bottle. Funny because the real thing is relatively cheap.

        1. re: treestonerivershrub

          You're welcome! The food store is next to the yoga studio. The best bulk bin I've found in Manhattan.

          Yeah, those turmeric jamus are pretty pricey. It's probably because the market for those types of things is pretty small. I was shocked to find a small bottle of the Blueprint vanilla cashew milk was $11! I make that at home for less than a buck. Perhaps as demand for those items increase will we see prices go down.

          Oh, and if it's moldy it's no good. I've come across moldy ones in Chinatown, but not at WF and Integral Yoga.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            Cool, they do bulk too? Now I'm 2x glad to know about this place.

            I know the blueprint juice you're talking about. I'm all about high quality ingredients & the actual cost of things, which sometimes goes hand-in-hand with a higher price than we are accustomed to paying for food, but that really seemed like a rip to me.

            And good to know about the mold - wasn't sure if it was just part of the plant.

        2. re: Miss Needle

          I looked up the recipe after reading this post. A few weeks ago I was in Fresh Market and saw fresh turmeric for the first time. Snapped some up and put it in my freezer. Kind of forgot about it. Thank you for the recipe. I am making it tonight. It sounds amazing. While I was out getting lemongrass at my local Asian market( Florida) I ran across Chinese red spinach. Serving it sauted with garlic in sesame oil and jasmine rice. Yes it is a little globetrotting but my belly won't mind. Let you know how I liked it.

          1. re: suzigirl

            Looking forward to hearing about your babi guling. Yeah, it's an amazing dish and I can't find it in NYC. I'm assuming it's difficult to source in your neck of the woods as well. I made it using pork shoulder as I wasn't exactly sure how to cook an entire suckling pig in my apartment. But if I ever get a place with a backyard you can be sure I'll try to do it whole hog (pun intended).

            1. re: Miss Needle

              I have never heard of to be honest. That is the beauty of it. I have nothing to compare it to so this could be an awful recipe and if I like it, well then good for me. I am using a pork shoulder also. Very ambitious recipe. My little mouth was just watering while reading it. I grow my own lemongrass so i even got a freebie item. Just so everyone knows, lemongrass looks small and harmless in the nursery but that isn't true. It gets HUGE.

              1. re: suzigirl

                I hope you get to try the real thing one day. The crisp skin that shatters because of the sugar from the coconut water is the best part. But I'm sure yours will be fabulous as well.

                It was definitely some work to make the pork shoulder version. I was going out of town for a few days and trying to get the paste going so I could marinate my pork before I left. This was before I had a food processor so took a lot of time. I remember a lot of frantic mashing in my mortar and pestle.

                Cool that you grow your own lemongrass! Growing up in a house with a vegetable garden where we picked fresh vegetables right before dinner time, I find it kind of tough dealing with store bought stuff.

                To keep this post Manhattan board relevant (though I have a feeling the mods will eventually move it), Chinatown is probably the best place to get all of your Southeast Asian ingredients in one swoop, though I find that kaffir lime leaves are a better deal at Eataly out of all places! And I've also found much better tumeric (quality and price) outside of C-town as well (as I noted above).

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  Luckily I have kaffir lime leaves in my freezer because I cannot get them here often as I live in Florida. I just got in on this thread because of the turmeric. And then I read your post and felt compelled to look up the babi guling as I had never heard of it. You never know what you will run across on this site. Must be nice to have an area to get everything in a one stop shopping situation. I have to run all over to get the things I want in Sarasota. Was super happy to see red spibach as it is rare around here.

                  1. re: treestonerivershrub

                    Thanks for asking. It wasn't as difficult as i thought. The tough part was the frying of the paste. Open a window. But putting it in the rotisserie was all I need to know I had a winner. The house smelled amazing right away. It took about two hours as i bought a roast with a bone. Thank you Miss Needle for opening up a cusine to me I may have never thought to try. Bellies were full with leftovers.

                    1. re: suzigirl

                      Thanks for reporting back. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it!

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        If you want to tip your hand to any other recipes from Bali I am all in. Thanks again. . No crackling skin but fall apart juicyness. Was worried that the lemongrass wasn't going to get tender because I used the food processor and it wasn't quite small enough but once I fried it was fine. Thank you bunches from the bottom of my heart. I have to be honest, the whole suckling pig would have freaked my bf out but myself raised on whatever my dad shot I'd be fine. But I can't get it here in Sarasota, Florida. Again, thanks.

                        1. re: suzigirl

                          You're so welcome! That is the only Balinese dish I've cooked ever. What I wouldn't give to find a babi guling place in NYC!

                2. re: Miss Needle

                  Very punny about the whole hog comment.(also pun intended. :-)

            2. Elm Drug, on 7th ave at 14th street had lovely fresh appearing organic turmeric the other day. Their produce section is small but quite good.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rose water

                Weird, I'm into it! I will check this place out - never would have known!

              2. I get mine at Patel Bros in Jackson Heights, where they also have the white turmeric. I make a drink with it using coconut milk and various other ingredients, but I also use it in place of dried turmeric in almost any Thai or Southeast Asian recipe if I have some around; SE Asian cooking uses white more often than orange.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Peter Cuce

                  I ran across white turmeric last week at Patel Brothers. Does it taste the same as the orange one?

                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                    That's really interesting. I've read a bunch about Patel Bros before on Chowhound when trying to source hard-to-find I'm more intrigued than ever. I didn't know there was such a thing as white turmeric! I have to echo Miss Needle's question about whether it tastes the same--what do you think? That drink sounds killer, by the way.

                  2. It really is better for Malaysian curries. The traditional way was to pound it into a paste in a mortar and pestle with shallots, chilis, and garlic, with some other possible additions (fresh ginger, dried shrimps). That's very labor-intensive, and of course, turmeric gives off an powerful dye, so watch out if you get it on your clothes. The fresh turmeric has a much earthier taste than the dried powder. For the record, though, I've never bought fresh turmeric here, so I don't know how much of the taste it retains by the time it's shipped here.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: Pan

                      Whoa, that sounds just...amazing. I must try that. My experience with curries so far does confirm your assertion that the fresh, or unprocessed, ingredients are the best. Even the difference between starting with whole (albeit dried) coriander and cumin seeds and grinding them fresh yourself is worlds apart from the powdered, pre-ground, dried stuff. So yeah. I'm sold.

                      1. re: treestonerivershrub

                        For my rendang, I use about equal parts by weight turmeric, galangal, and chile (jalapeno if you want it light, serrano for a bit more heat) to about 2x ginger (depends how pronounced the ginger is - young you can use a little less, old a little more), and a whole mess of lemongrass whites, maybe 10-15x by weight or so before trimming the greens. I prefer using a food processor to a mortar, get it as smooth as I can, and use that to marinade pretty much any meat for at least 24 hrs. Then just braise it in coconut milk with shallots, garlic, and add a little palm sugar at the end to the strained braising liquid (also a good time to add more chilis if you need) - even better if you let the meat sit overnight (again) in the braising liquid, then finish it on the grill to give it a little char. Awesome with pork belly, short ribs, chicken, whatever.

                        For me a dinner-party-worthy rendang is a three-day process... (but you can make a decent enough one in one day, I suppose...)

                        1. re: sgordon

                          I also use a food processor as well. I tried pounding out stuff for a Thai green curry paste a few months ago and gave up after about 20 minutes. I can see how a mortar and pestle will produce something that's more flavorful but laziness triumphs in my case.

                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            I see no scientific reason why mashing things in a stone would be more flavorful than pureeing said things with whirling knives. In fact, I'd wager the opposite since pureeing breaks down more cell walls. I think there's a bit of placebo effect to doing things rustically, though, at least for the person doing the pestle-ing.

                            1. re: sgordon

                              When I use a food processor, my curry paste ingredients gets chopped up into tiny pieces versus the items getting smashed, releasing its volatile components. That's why I think curry pastes taste better in a mortar and pestle.

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                This is my take too. Crushing in a mortar, if you do it long enough, breaks more cell walls, I'd surmise - and has psychological benefits, if there's anything you've been hankering to crush. Pureeing with blades, which is basically serial slicing, misses some spots. I've had better results with the former. Which is not to say I don't sometimes take the shortcut.

                                1. re: squid kun

                                  Yeah, I just made some green curry paste last weekend and went straight for the food processor. My paste was not really a "paste" but a mixture of tiny chopped herbs, roots and spices. If I'm ambitious enough, I should try using a mortar and pestle on my food processor paste. Perhaps that would be a good solution to laziness. I also wonder if adding a bit of water or coconut milk to the food processor will also help to release the flavors as the stuff becomes emulsified.

                                  Oh, I guess I should add that I used fresh turmeric to make the green curry paste.

                          2. re: sgordon

                            Did you ever try Rendang Tok from East Malasia. Has a marinade very much like yours, plus roasted coriander and cumin seeds, then cooks in super thick coconut milk with slices of fresh coconut as well, also kaffir lime leaves. very rich, but basically the most delicious dish in the world, although not nearly as hot as Sumatran Rendang, whichbI also love.

                            1. re: sgordon

                              Many thanks for the recipe! Sounds so good!

                              It's funny, I had actually just recently read about's my favorite kind of recipe because it was created to serve a very practical purpose, like preserving something perishable, but then turned into its own particular form of deliciousness.

                              Where do you get your ginger by the way? How do you tell whether it's young or old--I'm assuming the young ginger is smaller? I've yet to find a store that makes any distinctions within the rather broad category of ginger, and it's kind of frustrating, especially since I've found that the really huge pieces have a more bitter taste that I don't care for.

                              1. re: treestonerivershrub

                                I don't think young ginger is necessarily smaller, but it has a thinner skin that peels easily and is often rather pinkish in color.