Galangal, What is Galangal, Is It The Same As Ginger.


At first, galangal or ‘Khaa’ in Thai, appears similar to ginger. However a closer look will reveal the difference between galangal and ginger. Galangal has a tighter skin, is lighter in color and can have pinkish portions too. All of us know the taste and flavour of ginger, Galangal tastes more like pepper than ginger. Coming to the similarities between galangal and ginger, both grow underground and the method used to cook them (in various dishes) is similar too. Fresh galangal is now available in the west and it’s easy availability, makes people confuse it with ginger. There are two types of galangal, one of them has a stronger flavour as compared to the other. We have discussed this in more detail below.

Types Of Galangal, Flavour And Aroma Of Galangal

For those of you who are keen to know the specific types of Galangal, here is an interesting piece of information. The galangal that originated in Indonesia is also called, lengkuas and has a sharp flavour and pine like aroma. This is the galangal that is more commonly found in fresh or dried (powder) form in the west. The second type of galangal, has a pungent flavour and tastes like a combination of pepper and ginger. This galangal is believed to have it’s origin in southern parts of China. This type of Galangal is popular in Thailand and locally called krachaai. The flavour of galangal would therefore depend on the type of galangal, the pine like aroma comes from the galangal that originated in Indonesia. Most Westerners would know this type of galangal.

Using Galangal In Your Cooking

We had mentioned earlier that, the process of cooking galangal and ginger is quite similar. Galangal is commonly used as a seasoning ingredient in Thai food, many seafood and meat dishes use galangal for seasoning. There are two ways in which galangal is added to food dishes, one is the crushed form and the other is thin strips. Before you start using galangal, you will always need to peel it and take off the top layer. If the recipe you are making needs the galangal to be crushed, slice it first and then do the crushing. This is because galangal is much more dense and harder than ginger. You will find that many cooks prefer to cut galangal into thin strips, that are similar to matchstick length and dimensions. The fact that galangal is harder than ginger means that, it will need to be cooked for a longer time to become tender. The Thai’s love to make spicey curry paste and even dipping sauces with galangal as an ingredient. You will often find that, galangal, shallots, garlic and chilles are crushed into a paste. This paste is then used to flavour seafood or meat curries.

If you are using dry galangal (whole pieces) from the grocery store, you will need to soak the dry galangal in hot water before using it. Galangal powder, sometimes sold as Laos Galangal powder, can be used instead of fresh galangal. Replace about half inch of peeled and chopped fresh galangal with 1 teaspoon of galangal powder. If you have the option to use fresh galangal and dried or powdered galangal, choose fresh galangal.

More Information On Galangal

Galangal is also available in powder form. Though powdered galangal does not provide the same taste as fresh galangal, the convenience factor makes many cooks use galangal powder. If you were to use half an inch of fresh chopped galangal, the substitute of galangal powder would be 1 teaspoon. Fresh galangal can be stored in a cool dry place for around 2 weeks. If you decide to store galangal in your refrigerator, remember that the galangal will need to be kept moist. An ordinary paper wrapping would actually dry out the galangal by absorbing the moisture, use greased paper instead. Some grocery stores also sell dry galangal, this needs to be soaked in hot water before use. The juice from galangal can stain fingers or clothes, so be careful when handling it.