There are two rhizomes that are members of the Ginger family often named Galanga, but shouldn’t be confused. Greater Galangal, or Thai Ginger, is the subject of this article. Lesser Galangal, or Kencur, can be seen here.
Galangal | Thai Ginger | Siamese Ginger | Greater Galangal
Galangal is an erect annual plant with aromatic, ginger-like rhizomes and is a staple of SE Asian cooking as a flavouring. It is native to Java and Malaysia and resembles ginger in appearance. Sometimes called Laos, or Blue Ginger, it is a member of the ginger family. It is more sour-peppery-lemony than ginger, and can be distinguished from it by its cream colour, pink shoots and red-brown skin. It is tougher and harder than ginger, with smoother, thinner fingers, but elusively scented and must be peeled before use. The texture is quite dense.
Shred or slice galangal finely or grate it to use when you want to complement dishes that would otherwise benefit from a more ginger-like seasoning. It is used in curry pastes, stir-fries and soups — it is available fresh and dried from Asian food stores and fresh from some greengrocers.
Use fresh galangal if possible and be careful when handling that you don’t get the juice on your clothes or hands as it stains. Wrapped well, it will remain fresh in the fridge for several weeks. Dried or powdered galangal can be used as a substitute (dried slices soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes, and powder used at the rate of 1 tspn per 2.5 cm root).
The oil content has reported therapeutic uses such as carminative, stomachic, anti rheumatic and antimicrobial agents.