Origin and History

Greater galangal is native to Malaysia and Java. It has a delicate flavour and is used fresh in Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai cooking. The young rhizome is pale pink and more tender and flavourful than the mature one, which is beige in colour. Galangal was known to the ancient Indians, the Arabs gave it to their horses to stir them up, and the Orient took the powder as a snuff. The old term galangale was used to describe both galangal and the roots of sweet flag, known as calamus.


Galangal is an important ingredient in many Asian dishes and is particularly associated with the flavor of Thai food. Freshly grated or sliced, galangal will be found in the popular hot or sour soups of Thailand with lemongrass and lime leaves; while the powder is included in Thai green and red curries. It is also features in the cooking of China, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. As it is quite fibrous, people like to chop it into small pieces before pounding or grinding it. In a similar way to ginger, the tangy aromatic flavor of galangal helps to neutralize overly fishy flavor and is therefore often used in seafood recipes. Galangal belongs to the ginger family but cannot be used as a substitute for the common ginger, as its pungency and aroma is distinctively different. When the fresh galangal is not available, dried and powdered galangal can be used instead.

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