You've Been Mincing Ginger Wrong This Whole Time

A good knife is any cook's best friend. Just ask TV chef Martin Yan, who has spent decades wielding his trusty Chinese cleaver like a kitchen warrior ready to do battle with marauding meats and vegetables. 

Some of Yan's most wow-inducing TV moments involve the simple, potentially mind-numbing task of mincing ginger and garlic as part of his prep for a Chinese stir-fry. In Martin Yan's world, these spices are dispatched with the help of the flat side of the cleaver in seconds — literally a fraction of the time it would take for us kitchen noobs to work our way around a ginger root (you can watch Martin Yan do his thing here). 

Serious Eats editor Kenji Lopez-Alt decided to go on social media to show us how easy it was to actually mince ginger, Martin Yan-style, in an Instagram video that's picked up more than 165 thousand likes. In it, he bashes a slice of ginger with a hefty cleaver, leaving it in a minced, ready-to-cook state. In an email to Today, Lopez-Alt names Yan as an inspiration for the minced ginger hack, saying, "I think I first saw this when I was a kid watching Martin Yan cook on his TV show in the '80s. It's a common technique when you're working with a heavy knife like a cleaver or Chinese chef's knife."

The minced ginger hack works with a Chinese or western cleaver

Today got Martin Yan to weigh in by sharing his tips on how to mince ginger and wow your friends at the same time, and the veteran chef has said by email that "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." 

While Yan says the trick only works with a Chinese chef's knife, but Lopez-Alt said on social media that the trick also works with a western cleaver, a meat pounder, or — get this — the bottom of a skillet. The veteran food writer reminds us that there is a need to first peel the ginger, then slice the root against the grain into coins. The mashed ginger hack works with garlic too.

What Lopez-Alt doesn't specify is the "special angle" Yan was talking about. They may have wanted to leave something for our imaginations — and ingenuity — to work out.