Galangal rhizomes widely vary in size and shape and have a cylindrical, branched appearance with many shoots and bulbous knobs. The semi-smooth skin is light brown to tan, firm, hard, and is covered in darker brown rings. Underneath the woody skin, the flesh is pale yellow to ivory and is fibrous, dense, and aqueous with a spicy, floral aroma. Galangal is crisp and has a pungent, earthy, woodsy, and mustard-like flavor with subtle citrus undertones.
Galangal, botanically classified as Alpinia officinarum, is the underground rhizome of a tropical shrub that belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. Also known as Siamese ginger and Thai ginger, there are two main species of Galangal known as Greater Galangal and Lesser Galangal, varying in size, shape, and taste, but both species are used to flavor culinary dishes. Galangal has been utilized for its medicinal properties in Asia for thousands of years and is predominately used today to flavor Southeast Asian cuisine. Galangal adds a warm, sweet, and pungent flavor to dishes, similar to ginger but stronger in flavor, and can be found in fresh, dried, and powdered form.
Galangal is primarily used in Southeast Asian cooking, lightly crushed or pounded as an aromatic to add an earthy and pungent flavor. The rhizome can be thinly sliced and added to stir-fries, boiled into curries, cooked into satay, mixed in applesauce, lightly tossed into salads, or used to flavor soups such as tom kha gai, a Thai coconut soup, or samlor kor ko, which is a Cambodian vegetable soup. It can also be used in stews, rice, and noodle dishes. Galangal is often mixed into seafood dishes as it has a flavor that can mask fishiness and is also commonly boiled into a tea. The rhizome can be found fresh or in dried and powdered form, and when ground, the flavor becomes milder but earthier. Galangal root pairs well with meats such as poultry and fish, shellfish, garlic, onions, tamarind, chiles, lemongrass, bell peppers, and green onions. The fresh rhizome will keep 1-2 weeks when stored in the refrigerator, and ground Galangal will keep up to one year when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.
Galangal is available year-round.