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Getting to Know Galangal: Galangal Vs Ginger

Jump to Recipe (Galangal and Coconut Soup)


What is galangal? Is galangal ginger?

ginger vs galangal

Let's start, ginger vs galangal. Galangal is not ginger, but it is a plant that belongs to the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). But what is the difference between ginger and galangal?


Like ginger, it flowers and has an underground stem called a rhizome. Also, like ginger, the rhizome is the part of the plant primarily used in cooking. Galangal is informally called 'Thai ginger' and is native to Southeast Asia.


Galangal is available in two main varieties, greater galangal (Alpinia galanga) and lesser galangal (Alpinia officinarum). Greater galangal is more commonly used in Thai cuisine, while lesser galangal is used in Indonesian and Malaysian dishes.


What is Galangal Good For?


Infographic listing potential health benefits of galangal

Galangal is a root herb closely related to ginger. It has several similar potential health benefits to ginger. But, more research is needed to confirm these effects. Please conduct your research before making health decisions.


Digestive Aid: Galangal has traditionally been used to aid digestion. It may help reduce symptoms of indigestion, bloating, and flatulence. It is believed to stimulate the production of digestive enzymes and promote a healthy gut.


Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Galangal contains bioactive compounds that may have anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds could help reduce inflammation linked to various chronic diseases.


Antioxidant Effects: Some studies suggest that galangal has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help neutralise harmful free radicals in the body. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of chronic diseases.


Potential Cancer-Fighting Properties: Certain compounds in galangal may have anti-cancer properties. More research is needed in this area.


Antimicrobial Activity: Galangal extracts have shown antimicrobial activity. Galangal extracts fight against various pathogens, including bacteria and fungi. This property may help in combating infections and promoting health.


Anti-Allergic Properties: Some studies suggest that galangal extracts may have anti-allergic effects. Potentially helping to ease allergy symptoms by reducing histamine release.


Pain Relief: In traditional medicine systems, galangal has been used for its potential analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. It may be applied topically to soothe minor aches and pains.


Cardiovascular Health: Galangal's potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may contribute to cardiovascular health. It does this by reducing the risk of heart disease. It may help in maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.


Improved Cognitive Function: Some traditional remedies use galangal for cognitive enhancement. While more research is needed in this area, the antioxidants in galangal may have a neuroprotective effect.


Ayurvedic medicine


Herbal medicine is widely used globally. Ayurvedic medicine uses ginger and galangal for their medicinal properties, but ginger is more common. People know Ginger for its warming properties. It aids digestion, reduces inflammation, and treats ailments like nausea and colds.


Galangal, like ginger, is also used in traditional medicine but is less prominent. It's used for its anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits. Many believe that both herbs share some healing properties. However, people use them depending on the specific health conditions they are addressing.


ginger vs galangal

What does galangal taste like?


Galangal has a similar appearance to ginger. Although fresh galangal and fresh ginger look similar galangal and ginger have their own distinct taste. Galangal's taste is a more complex in flavour than ginger.


So, what does galangal taste like? Galangal's taste packs a punch and has peppery notes. Galangal is hotter than ginger. I know this because of curiosity I munched on both raw so I could answer this question for you. You're welcome. Galangal's taste is hot and peppery. It has sweet citrus tones, with a hint of pine. The heat in galangal mellows with cooking.


Unlike ginger, galangal has a more pronounced and intense flavour profile. The taste of galangal is often described as a combination of ginger and black pepper, with hints of citrus and pine. The hints of pine is what gives galangal its unique flavour. Its heat level is generally higher than that of ginger, making it a prominent ingredient in spicy dishes.


One characteristic of galangal is its distinct sharpness and spiciness. This fiery element adds depth and complexity to a variety of Asian cuisines, particularly Thai, Indonesian, and Malaysian. Galangal is commonly used in curry pastes, soups, stir-fries, and marinades.


When consumed raw, the heat and peppery flavors of galangal are more pronounced. However, when cooked, the intensity mellows down. Galangal is used in savoury dishes. This makes it practical for Asian Asian cookingand Indian cooking.


Ginger has a warm earthy, mildly spicy flavour. Ginger is also sweet and has a more considerable spice 'kick' than galangal. Ginger's 'kick' is due to gingerol that triggers a sensation of heat in the mouth and nose.


How is galangal used in cooking?


Galangal is used as a spice and an aromatic ingredient. It is typically added to curries, soups, stir-fries, and marinades to enhance the dish's flavour. Galangal can be used fresh, dried, powdered form, or paste, depending on the recipe.


galangal goes well with coconut

What recipes use galangal?


Here are some recipe examples to get you thinking creatively:


  • Indonesian Rendang: Rendang is a rich and aromatic Indonesian curry.

  • Malaysian Laksa: A spicy and flavourful noodle soup.

  • Thai Green Curry: Galangal is often included in the paste. (A personal favourite)

  • Thai Tom Kha Gai: Coconut soup that features galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves.


Galangal Root vs Ginger


How does galangal root compare to ginger in cooking? Some recipes do best with one or the other, but surprisingly for others, you can use either. All the recipes in the list refer to a vegan version.

Ginger

Galangal

Both

Gingerbread Biscuits

Thai Green Curry

Indonesian Rendang

Ginger Tea

Tom Kha Gai (Coconut Soup)

Malaysian Laksa

Pumpkin Ginger Soup

Vegan Galangal Stir-Fry

Stir-Fried Vegetables

Carrot Ginger Dressing

Vegan Balinese Tempeh

Vegan Curry Pastes

Ginger Soy Glazed Tofu

Galangal Lemongrass Tofu

Asian-inspired Vegan Marinades



ginger root

Can ginger substitute galangal?


Can you use ginger instead of galangal? Ginger is easier to find in stores than galangal and can be used as a substitute for galangal. Remember that even though the two look the same and are from the same family, they have different flavours and could change a recipe a little or a lot.


Some things to think about before using the two interchangeably:


Flavour and compatibility


While switching the two in some savoury recipes may not make much of a difference, there may be better ideas than using galangal in sweet recipes. It is also inauthentic to switch the two if you are aiming for regional flavours. Think through your recipes before making a switch.


Availability


Galangal is a perennial plant, and its availability can vary depending on the region and climate. In its native region, it is all year round. It can be more difficult to find outside of its preferred growing climate.


Ginger is more widely accessible in many grocery stores, making it a convenient substitute when galangal is not accessible. You can get around this issue by purchasing processed ingredients like curry bases that already contain galangal.


Where can I buy galangal?


If you are from a region with a compatible climate to grow galangal, it will be easier to find than outside of its growing environment. For those of us who do not live in a popular cultivation region and your local big chain supermarket doesn't sell it, you should try a more specialised food market, such as a fruit and vegetable market or gourmet food market.

Before you rush around town try calling first.


If the store you call doesn't stock it, they might know who does. I located some at specialty fresh food markets. I went in there for galangal and came out with an overflowing bag of plant-based food and vegan goodies.


If you would rather have the option that requires the least effort, you can buy dried galangal online. Here is my Amazon affiliate link for buying galangal online.


galangal root raw

What do I look for when buying fresh galangal?


Look for a smooth, firm appearance

Avoid any that are dehydrated, wrinkled, or have spots

Choose a size that will be easy to peel

Smell it for a pleasant aroma


Does galangal need to be peeled?


Yes, it is peeled in the same way as ginger. You can use a:


  • Knife

  • Spoon or

  • Vegetable peeler

I have found the knife to be the best option as the skin on the galangal that I have purchased has been thick and quite tough.


How long does galangal last?


It is best to store galangal in the refrigerator or freezer. Peeled or sliced galangal should be used within a week or two, as it tends to dry out more quickly. The whole fresh, unpeeled galangal can last for about 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge. Wrap it loosely in a paper towel or perforated plastic bag to allow airflow and prevent moisture build-up.


Galangal can be stored in the freezer. Freezing galangal is a good option for extended storage. To store the galangal in the freezer, peel and slice it, then put it in an airtight container or freezer bag. Frozen galangal can last for about 6 without a significant loss in flavour or quality.


The potency of flavour may diminish over time, even if properly stored. Therefore, for the best experience, use fresh galangal as soon as possible after purchase.


Is there a difference between fresh and dried galangal?


The main difference between fresh and dried galangal is their flavour profile and moisture content. Fresh galangal is more potent and aromatic, while dried galangal is milder and suitable for longer storage.


I will not sugarcoat it; fresh is best, but dried galangal is a good option if you can't find it anywhere. When using one as a substitute for the other, it's important to consider the impact on the dish's overall flavour.


The differences to consider:


Ginger vs Galangal Table

ginger vs galangal table flavour aroma texture

Summary



Ginger and galangal can be used interchangeably for some recipes, but choose wisely. Galangal is not ginger, but it is part of the same family. It has many similar qualities to ginger but has its distinct taste.


Galangal is used in many popular Southeast Asian dishes and is often paired with flavours such as kaffir lime and coconut. If you live where it is difficult to source fresh galangal, you may consider freezing the fresh root or buying it dried. However, fresh galangal has a more potent and pleasing flavour and texture.


If you want to read more on ginger, please visit my blog post, Getting Fresh with Ginger, How to Handle the Root.


Recipe


6 Ingredient Galangal and Coconut Soup (Tom Kha Gai)


Ingredients:


2 cups of vegetable broth

200g (7 oz) of tofu, cubed

1-2 slices of fresh galangal (about 2 inches long)

1 can (400ml) of coconut milk

2-3 kaffir lime leaves (optional)

1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari (for seasoning)


Instructions:


  1. In a pot, bring the vegetable broth to a gentle boil.

  2. Add the cubed tofu to the boiling broth. Allow it to cook for about 2-3 minutes to heat through.

  3. While the tofu is cooking, lightly bruise the galangal slices. This helps release its flavour. If you prefer a stronger galangal flavour, you can slice it more thinly or add more slices.

  4. Once the tofu is heated through, add the galangal slices to the pot.

  5. Pour in the coconut milk and stir well. Reduce the heat to low and let the soup simmer for about 5-7 minutes, allowing the flavours to meld together.

  6. If you have kaffir lime leaves, tear them into pieces and add them to the soup for a citrusy aroma and flavour. Simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes.

  7. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with soy sauce or tamari to your liking. You can also add a touch of sugar or a vegan sweetener if you prefer a slightly sweeter taste.

  8. Serve the Vegan Galangal and Coconut Milk Soup hot, garnished with fresh cilantro or Thai basil leaves if desired.


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