Also known as
Galanga, Blue Ginger, Thai ginger
The Galangal plant is a rhizome with culinary and medicinal uses. Galangal was known to the ancient Indians, and has been in the West since the Middle Ages .In its raw form, galangal has a citrusy, earthy aroma, with hints of pine and soap in the flavor. The galangals are basically fascinating ginger-like spices used in South East Asia .It is available as a whole root, cut or powdered. The whole fresh root is very hard, and slicing it requires a sharp knife. Galangal can be used like ginger, powdered, bruised or crushed. One slice of the root is equivalent to half a teaspoon of powder.
A tropical herbaceous plant of the ginger family reaching to about 2m (6 1/2ft). The blade-like leaves are long and wide, 50 x 9cm (18 x 31/2in); the flowers are greenish white with a dark-red veined tip. The fruits are red berries. The rhizomes are orange to brown and ringed at intervals by the yellowish remnants of atrophied leaf bases.
Smaller than the greater as the name implies. The leaves are long and slender, roughly half the dimensions of the greater. The whole plant, rarely more than 1m (3 1/4ft) high, vaguely resembles an iris. The flowers are small, white with red streaks. The rhizomes are reddish brown, about 2cm (3/4in) in diameter. They are more pungent than the greater and are similarly ringed.
Kaempferia galangal: The rhizomes are reddish with a white interior. The plant is similar in appearance to lesser galangal.
Galangal should be washed very well since they tend to collect sand and soil. Put the washed and peeled galangal on a chopping board and chop them in small 1-2 inch sized pieces with a sharp knife.
With a sharp knife the galangal is sliced on four sides to create a thick rectangular stick, then cut lengthwise into approximately 3 mm (1/8 inch) slices. Stacking these slices and again cutting lengthwise into strips creates thin uniform square sticks called juliennes. It is applied to the preparation of meat or fish, especially in stir fry techniques.
Cut the galangal longitudinally to get thin or thick strips as per the recipe.
Crush the roots in a mortar and pestle to get coarsely crushed galangal.
This requires grating the galangal in a hand held grater.
The rhizomes can be shredded coarsely in a shredded or manually, using a sharp knife. Cut the galangal in thin slices and then break up the pieces in shreds using fingers. Shredded collard is used as a garnish, in coleslaws or merely to reduce the cooking time.
How to select
While shopping, it can be available in two forms ~ Whole and Ground. Whole galangal should be firm , orangish brown in colour and without any soft spots or discoloration. Galangal powder should be free of lumpiness and checked for expiry date.
· The use of greater galangal is confined to local Indonesian dishes such as curries.
· Like ginger, galangal is a 'de-fisher' and so appears frequently in fish and shellfish recipes often with garlic, ginger, chilli and lemon or tamarind.
How to store
The powders should be stored in airtight containers and used within a short space of time.
· Resembling ginger in its effects, galangal is an aromatic stimulant, carminative and stomachic.
· It is used against nausea, flatulence, dyspepsia, rheumatism, catarrh and enteritis.
· It also possesses tonic and antibacterial qualities and is used for these properties in veterinary and homeopathic medicine.
· In India it is used as a body deodorizer and halitosis remedy. Both galangals have been used in Europe and Asia as an aphrodisiac for centuries.