07 Aug Galangal Root (Storage + Cooking Tips)
The picture on the left is fresh galangal root harvested yesterday (August 6, 2017) from LSF. Galangal is also known as Thai ginger or Siamese ginger (because it resembles fresh ginger so much), but it really is its own ingredient. It’s commonly found in Thai, Indonesian, and Malaysian cooking. The skin of galangal is smoother and paler than ginger and its flesh is much harder. It can’t be grated like ginger can, but instead, must be sliced. The flavor of galangal is much stronger too; it’s earthy, sharp, and extra citrusy.
Galangal can be stored in the vegetable drawer of a refrigerator for two to three weeks. First wrap the galangal in plastic wrap or, preferably, wrap the root first in a damp cloth, then in a plastic bag. Galangal can be frozen without losing any flavor. Cut the unpeeled root into slices a quarter-inch thick, wrap in plastic and freeze for up to three months. Unlike ginger, galangal does not need to be peeled. Thoroughly rinse the root under cold water, rubbing away any dirt, and pat dry.
Galangal has a strong, aromatic, punchy flavor that can be overwhelming, so use the root sparingly. When cooked, galangal does not soften; it should be either left in large slices so it can be strained prior to serving or very finely chopped so the texture does not interfere with the resulting dish. To infuse soups, stews or teas with galangal, cut into quarter-inch-thick slices, simmer over low heat then strain prior to serving. A slice or two of galangal perks up plain steamed rice. For other types of dishes, such as stir-fries and salads, slice it thinly, stack the slices and cut them into a very thin julienne. For curry pastes, chop finely, and then mash with the other flavorings in a blender or with a mortar and pestle. (It is essential for Thai curry pastes, where it does not get lost among the pronounced flavors of lemongrass, chili peppers and dried shrimp.) Galangal’s spicy mustard flavor highlights all types of seafood, whether incorporated into a marinade, vinaigrette or poaching liquid. Try steaming fish or clams, mussels or cockles cooked in an aromatic broth of a few slices of galangal and a little sake or white wine. Or add a few slices of galangal to a tomato-based seafood stew during simmering for an interesting twist. Galangal adds character to long-simmered beef stews, but it is also good when it’s finely chopped and used with a little garlic in a quick beef stir-fry. Raw galangal makes a great addition to shellfish and calamari salads when combined with fish sauce, Thai chili peppers and lime juice. And for an extra pop, add raw galangal to your favorite salsa. The root may also be used as a tea, extract or capsule!
What’s the difference between galangal and ginger?
Both galangal and ginger are rhizomes, a type of underground creeping stem of a plant that sends out shooters to create new plants, in the ginger family (turmeric and cardamom are also in this family). Their biggest difference is their taste: galangal has a sharp citrusy, almost piney flavor, while ginger is fresh, pungently spicy, and barely sweet — that means that they cannot be used interchangeably.
Apart from its culinary uses, galangal is extremely useful medically. Galangal oil has been commonly prescribed by homeopaths and herbalists for its medicinal uses. Consuming galangal regularly can aid the digestion process, and reduce constipation and vomiting. It has been found effective as a remedy for ulcers and inflammation of the stomach. Galangal has been known to improve blood circulation, especially in the hands and feet, thereby improving oxygen supply and nutrient supply to these parts. It can also aid respiratory problems like congestion and helps regulate breathing rate. The galangal herb is used extensively throughout the East as a snuff for nasal infections. A mixture of galangal and lime juice is used as a tonic for a cough and cold. Additionally, galangal powder is used against bad breath as a mouth freshener.
Once galangal has been dried and crushed and kept in boiling water, one can make galangal tea. This tea can be consumed regularly to produce a soothing and calming effect on the body. Galangal possesses tonic and antibacterial qualities and can be used to heal minor cuts and wounds. Powdered galangal made into a paste can be rubbed onto the body to ease aches and pains. In India, galangal is valued for its use in perfumes and deodorants. It is occasionally used as an aromatic stimulant in atmospheric purifiers as well.