Ginger

Ginger (king in Thai) is perhaps the most recognizable and widely available of the spices used in Thai cooking, although many are surprised at the extent to which it is used. It's sometimes ground up in curry pastes, but the most common use of ginger is as a main ingredient in light stir-fries, where the ginger is shredded into fine julienne sticks. Along with black pepper, ginger was one of the main spices used in Thai cuisine before the chili pepper arrived late in the 16th century.

Ginger
A large pile of fresh ginger on sale in the market, with some shredded ginger behind.

Ginger is grown in northern Thailand as well as the central and eastern regions. The variety used in the various regions are slightly different in general appearance, but taste more or less the same. The northern variety is specifically called king puak, for its light creamy color. In the markets, you will often find ginger sold at stalls along with cloud ear mushrooms. Both are products of the forest. The cloud ear mushrooms grow on the sides of mature trees, which is why they are sometimes called "wood ear" mushrooms, while ginger grows in the shady ground around the trees. Customers have the option of buying whole roots of ginger, or they can purchase it already shredded (called in Thai king soy) for use in stir-fries. A whole kilogram of shredded ginger costs around just one U.S. dollar.

Thais use ginger medicinally as well as in their cooking. While doing the photography for this site, we stopped at a temple outside of Lamphun that I had not visited for many years. The temple is composed of a large monastery at the base of a hill, at the top of which is a large pagoda surrounded by prayer halls, monk's quarters and other buildings. When I last visited the temple about 15 years ago, there was only a dirt road up the back of the hill, and so we ended up climbing the 409 stairs to the top, which then had only the still-under-construction pagoda. Now the road is paved, and being 15 years older I readily agreed to be driven to the top. In the parking area behind the pagoda, a lady had set up a stall to sell tea powders. Her big seller was ginger tea, which is quite delicious hot, and is believed by Thais to be good for the digestion as well as the throat. International studies on the effects of ginger show that it may be good for the circulation as well.

The exact origins of ginger are unclear, although most assume it was first cultivated in Southeast Asia. It was one of the first Asian spices introduced to Europe, having been known to both the Greeks and Romans. Apparently, during the middle ages it was even thought to be a cure for plague!

Weight Information
1 tsp 2.0 g
1 cup slices (1" dia) 24.0 g
1 slices (1" dia) 11.0 g
Nutritional Information for 1 tsp
Energy 1.6
Protein 0.0364 20.000 0%
Total lipid (fat) 0.015 65.000 0%
Carbohydrate, by difference 0.3554 300.000 0%
Fiber, total dietary 0.04 25.000 0%
Calcium, Ca 0.32 1000.000 0%
Iron, Fe 0.012 18.000 0%
Magnesium, Mg 0.86 400.000 0%
Phosphorus, P 0.68 1000.000 0%
Potassium, K 8.3 3500.000 0%
Sodium, Na 0.26 2400.000 0%
Zinc, Zn 0.0068 15.000 0%
Copper, Cu 0.00452 2.000 0%
Manganese, Mn 0.00458 2.000 0%
Selenium, Se 0.014 70.000 0%
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid 0.1 60.000 0%
Thiamin 0.0005 1.500 0%
Riboflavin 0.00068 1.700 0%
Niacin 0.015 20.000 0%
Pantothenic acid 0.00406 10.000 0%
Vitamin B-6 0.0032 2.000 0%
Folate, total 0.22 400.000 0%
Folate, food 0.22 400.000 0%
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.0052
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) 0.002 80.000 0%
Fatty acids, total saturated 0.00406 20.000 0%
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 0.00308
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 0.00308