Know The Difference Between Ing Makhir And Ing Bah – Meghalaya Gingers That Can Transform People’s Food and Health

You know that ginger's a spice no kitchen can do without. It adds zing to your dishes while delivering astoundingly powerful proven health benefits to you. Research has shown that these benefits emerge from its manifold bioactive compounds, especially gingerol and shagaol. These compounds also make ginger antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, carminative and much more. 

You’ve also heard there are many varieties of ginger (over 1600 species) but you will most likely stock up your spice basket with the familiar fleshy root. For example, the common Nadia or Rio de Janeiro varieties.  

In Meghalaya, the Khasis call this common ginger ing bah. It’s an exotic variety, developed for high-yield, and widely grown in this ginger producing state. It’s ideal for ushering flavours to foods as well as shore up as an essential ingredient in the herbal medicine list.    

The other type is the local Meghalaya genotype, ing makhir. It’s rare, not widely cultivated, and it’s medicinal as well 

If you want to add that signature flavour to special dishes (like the Khasis do to their tungrymbai or fermented soybean chutney), bakes, and teas, then ing makhir is the ginger to reach out for.  

Significantly, it’s one of the essential ingredients in scores of herbal remedies (such as the Khasi dawai niangsohpet or infantile diarrhoea medicine).  

So what is the difference between these two? Let’s try and find out.  

Flavourful and Healing 

Both ing bah and ing makhir are aromatic tropical plants belonging to the large Zingiberaceae rhizome family (native to Southeast Asia but now grown the world over). Ing Bah is Zingiber officinale Roscoeand Ing Makhir is Zingiber rubens.   

Both the plants look alike above ground—thin, erect stems that sport similar lance-like alternate leaves and colourful flowers. But their roots (or rhizomes) are starkly dissimilar. Ing bah is full-bodied, thick and fleshy with smoother skin while ing makhir looks shrivelled, thin and wiry. They both, however, deliver that warm, spicy, and soothing flavour—not to mention loads of health benefits. 

Ing bah, of course, is preferred for the kitchen because of its higher flesh and low fibre content. Ing makhir, on the other hand, has undisputed medicinal value and sells at a premium (easily three times more than ing bah). 

Khasi folk medicine practitioners have an old culture of using both types of ginger to cure ailments such as common colds, coughs, and body aches. “Ginger calms the stomach, relieves nausea, and eases toothache,” echoed local traditional health practitioner, Kong Ribha Khriem.  

Although traditional healers have always known about its efficacy, modern research has now confirmed ginger’s importance as a curative agent for a variety of ailments.  

Ginger’s quality and usefulness as an end product lies in the plant’s nutritive, chemical, and phytochemical properties. Some examples are essential oils, fibre and oleoresins.  

Ing Bah vs Ing Makhir  

There’s a host of research available about Z.officinale but very little about Z.rubens. So while we have innumerable data on one, we struggle for information when it comes to the other. But let’s try and see what similarities and differences are there between ing bah and ing makhir. 

The Physical Looks 

At a glance, you can easily tell one root from the other as their physical appearances are strikingly dissimilar.  

 

Common ginger or Ing Bah has smoother light to light-brown skin, is fleshier with stouter fingers and more juice. Ing makhir has darker skin that’s less smooth, thin fingers with more fibre than flesh. It also yields comparatively very little juice.  

Nutrient content 

Nutritionally speaking, all types of ginger are rich in both macro and micronutrients as you can see from the table below 

 

Nutrient Content per 100 grams of ginger (Source: USDA Nutrient data 2013 for Spices) 

 

Constituents 

Ground ginger 

Raw ginger 

Energy  

1404 KJ (336Kcal) 

333 KJ (80 Kcal) 

Carbohydrates 

71.6 g 

17.7 g 

Sugars 3.39 g 

3.39 g 

3.39 g 

Fibre  

14.1 g 

2.0 g 

Dietary Fat  

4.24 g 

0.75 g 

Protein  

8.98 g 

1.82 g 

Thiamine(B1)  

0.046 mg 

0.025 mg 

Riboflavin(B2)  

0.17 mg 

0.034 mg 

Niacin(B3)  

9.62 mg 

0.75 mg 

Pantothenic acid (B5)  

0.477 mg 

0.203 mg 

Vitamin B6  

0.626 mg 

0.16 mg 

Folate (B9)  

13 μg 

11 µg 

Vitamin C  

0.7 mg 

5 mg 

Vitamin E  

0.0 mg 

0.26 mg 

Calcium   

114 mg 

16 mg 

Iron  

19.8 mg 

0.6 mg 

Magnesium   

214 mg 

43 mg 

Manganese  

33.3 mg 

0.229 mg 

Phosphorus   

168 mg 

34 mg 

Potassium   

1320 mg 

415 mg 

Sodium   

27 mg 

13 mg 

Zinc 

3.64 mg 

0.34 mg 

 

Beneficial Chemistry  

Chemically speaking, ginger has over 400 different compounds. The major bioactive components are 6-gingerol, 6-shagaol, and 6-paradol which are phytochemicals, and phenolic compounds 

 

Phenolic compounds are responsible for ginger’s phenomenal disease-prevention and fighting properties. It’s effective for illnesses ranging from cancer, microbial attacks, allergies, to diseases of the central nervous system.   

 

And if you’re wondering where ginger gets its characteristic flavour and odour from, blame it on two classes of phytochemicals – non-steam components and steam-volatile oils.  

The former lends the root its pungency and the latter its distinct aroma and flavour. These classes of components are what allow us to detect ginger’s unique taste and aroma through our sense organs.  

Among the phenolic compounds gingerols and shagaols are the pungent constituents. Some aromatic oils are zingiberene and bisabolene. The differences in phenolic content percentages defines the main differences between ing bah and ing makhir.  

Some Research Findings 

In 2009, a group of researchers from the Central Agricultural University in Umiam, Meghalaya made a study to quantify the pungency principle of 18 genotypes of ginger.  

 

The researchers looked at the different per cent share of gingerols and shagaol for a period of 0 to 4 months. Below is the difference they found between the Meghalaya local genotype and the Nadia ginger: 

 

At 0 months, Meghalaya local had: 

At 4 months, Meghalaya local had: 

6-gingerol – 88.65% 

6-gingerol – 84.60 % 

8-gingerol – 9.08 % 

8-gingerol – 8.85 % 

10-gingerol – 2.27 % 

10-gingerol – 2.03 % 

Shagaol - NIL 

Shagaol – 4.50 % 

At 0 months, Nadia had: 

At 4 months, Nadia had: 

6-gingerol – 83.60 % 

6-gingerol – 81.91 % 

8-gingerol – 8.20 % 

8-gingerol – 8.07 % 

10-gingerol – 8.20 % 

10-gingerol – 7.99 % 

Shagaol - NIL 

Shagaol – 2.04 % 

(Source) 

The findings established that the Meghalaya local had more gingerol content than the other genotypes. It also established that shagaols (which are not present at 0 months) are not native constituents in fresh ginger. They degenerate from gingerols upon dehydration.  

So when you heat, cook, or dry raw ginger, the gingerol in it dehydrates and transform into shagaols. That’s why dried ginger is at least two times more pungent than fresh ginger.
And because of its higher gingerol and shagaol percentage level, ing makhir scores over ing bah in pungency and aroma.


So, which Ginger should you use?


Ing bah -Nadia ginger - is best for everyday cooking because of its fleshiness and low fibre content (if you use it fresh). You get more body and more juice but less pungency and aroma. It is also great for salads.

Ing makhir – medicinal ginger -, the more potent local heirloom variety, is for special dishes, medicinal use and to make health teas or add to your favourite beverages. Its distinct citrusy aroma is hard to miss. You can add pinches of it to your bakes and cakes too.
Either way, fresh or dried, both are great for flavour and health. There’s no way you can lose with ing bah and ing makhir ginger roots.

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