Introduction and description
Galangal is a rhizome of plants in the ginger family Zingiberaceae, originating in Indonesia, and with both culinary and medicinal uses.
In the Indonesian language, the greater galangal and lesser galangal are both called lengkuas or laos, while Kaempferia galanga is known as kencur.
It is also known as galanggal, and somewhat confusingly galingale, which is also the name for several plants of the unrelated Cyperus genus of sedges (also with aromatic rhizomes). In Thai language, greater galangal is called "ข่า" (kha) or "ข่าใหญ่" (kha yai), while lesser galangal is called "ข่าตาแดง" (kha ta daeng). In Vietnamese, greater galangal is called riềng nếp and lesser galangal is called riềng thuốc.
The word galangal, or its variant galanga, can refer in common usage to four plant species all in the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family:
- Alpinia galanga or greater galangal
- Alpinia officinarum or lesser galangal
- Kaempferia galanga, also called kencur, aromatic ginger or sand ginger
- Boesenbergia rotunda, also called Chinese ginger or fingerroot
Galangal is related to and resembles ginger. While ginger tastes a little like galangal, most cooks who use both rhizomes would never substitute one for the other and expect the same flavour. In their raw form, galangals do not taste the same as common ginger.
The rhizomes are used in various Asian cuisines (for example in Thai and Lao tom yum and tom kha gai soups, Vietnamese Huế cuisine (tré) and throughout Indonesian cuisine, for example, in soto).
They are available as a whole rhizome, cut or powdered. The whole fresh rhizome is very hard, and slicing it requires a sharp knife.
A mixture of galangal and lime juice is used as a tonic in parts of Southeast Asia.
Polish Żołądkowa Gorzka vodka is flavoured with galanga.
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