How To Find, Choose, & Use

Greater Galangal

Alpinia galanga

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The Basics

  • What Is It?

    The spicy and pungent tasting root-like rhizome from a member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), native to Southeast Asia.

  • Seasonality

    YEAR-ROUND

  • Flavour Profile

    Pungent/medicinal; reminiscent of pine and black pepper.

  • Other Names

    Thai Galangal, Blue Ginger, Thai Ginger, Galingale, Lengkuas (Indonesian), Kha (ข่า) (Thai)


How-To

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  • Find

    Thai and well-stocked Asian grocery stores, online specialty distributors (note fresh vs. dried!)

  • Choose

    Firm roots with bright, relatively unblemished skin. Slightly papery rings on the skin are normal, as are small round ‘eyes.’ Like ginger, galangal is a rhizome and is likely to have cut ends. These may be dried out a little, but shouldn’t be soft or mouldy.

  • Prep

    Difficulty: Low – Prepared much the same way as ginger. The root may be peeled, though this isn’t always necessary. Note that galangal is considerably tougher than ginger, so use a sharp knife.

  • Use

    As with ginger, galangal is generally cooked in dishes, though it’s not always eaten itself. Slices/pieces will lend distinctive flavour to dishes, but are too woody to eat. It can also be pounded into a paste as part of a curry/spice paste, in which case it is eaten.

  • Store

    Short Term: Wrap in paper towel and refrigerate in an unsealed bag
    Long Term: Slice and freeze

Culinary Info

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  • Flavour Profile

    Pungent/Spiced – Galangal has a distinct and unique flavour, somewhat like a cross between pine needles and black pepper, with a slight sweetness.

  • Substitutions

    Substituting for galangal is difficult. Frozen galangal is the best choice if fresh is unavailable. Dried galangal (which is shelf-stable) is the next best option. Ginger serves a similar purpose in recipes, but does NOT have the same flavour profile (see “Need More Detail?” below).

  • Cuisines

    Most prominent in Thai cooking, galangal is also used (often to a lesser degree) in other parts of Southeast Asia.

  • Flavour Pairings

    Best with typically Southeast Asian ingredients like lime, fish sauce, chilies, coconut, etc. Pairs well with a variety of meats and vegetables, though it can be a bit overwhelming if not used judiciously.

  • Varieties

    Greater galangal does not have any prominent culinary varieties, however it is worth differentiating from Lesser Galangal, Fingerroot, and Sand Ginger which are all also called galangal.

More Info

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  • Nutrition

    Moderately high in Vitamin C, though rarely used in large enough quantities to impact a dish much.
    For a full nutritional profile, click Need More Detail? below

  • Top-To-Tail

    The rhizome is the only commonly available part in most markets, but the leaves can be used to add a similar (but milder) flavour to curries and sauces. The small red fruit has a flavour similar to cardamom, and is sometimes found at Chinese herbalists.

  • GMO Status

    Non-GMO

  • Health & Science

    – Dried galangal was once a very important medicinal herb in much of Europe.
    – Galangal contains the flavonol compound galangin, which has demonstrated a variety of beneficial properties.

  • Organic vs. Conventional

    USDA organic galangal is grown in Hawaii, but is not commonly available. Information about pesticide use in conventional galangal is limited, but the plant is known for being naturally anti-microbial and insecticidal, and most likely does not require much treatment.

RECIPES

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    An elegant and delicious show-stopping appetizer that also happens to be very achievable in the home kitchen - especially with these key tips and tricks.
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    Goma-ae is well-known, but more versatile than most realize. Chrysanthemum greens, miso, & tofu make for a delicious departure from the well-known spinach dish.
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