names: Galanga; greater galangal; Siamese ginger
galangal, mostly referred to simply as galangal, is a very popular
spice in whole South East Asia and especially typical for the cuisine
of Thailand. In the Middle Ages, it was used as a medicine, spice
and an aphrodisiac. Its origin is in South East Asia, probably southern
China; it is now cultivated in India, Indochina, Thailand, Malaysia
and Indonesia. The ginger-like rootstock (rhizome) is the useful plant
part. It is warm, sweet and spicy. Fresh galangal has a distinct fragrance
and the dried galangal is more spicy and sweet-aromatic, almost like
cinnamon. Galanga and similar forms derive from the Arabic names khulendjan
or khalangian, which themselves are probably a distortion of Chinese
liang-kiang "mild ginger". The genus name Alpinia is in memory of
an Italian Botanist, Prospero Alpina (1533-1617), and the alternative
name Languas is based on the Malay name lengkuas, which in turn may
relate to the former mentioned Chinese term.
galangal grows to a height of 1.8 m and has long, elegant, blade-like
leaves. The flowers are green and white with red tips. Rhizome is
built up from cylindrical subunits (circular cross-section), whose
pale-reddish surface is characteristically cross-striped by reddish-brown,
small rings. The interior has about the same colour as the skin and
is hard and woody in texture.
rhizome contains up to 1.5% essential oil (1,8 cineol, alpha-pinene,
eugenol, camphor, methyl cinnamate and sesquiterpenes). In dried galangal,
the essential oil has quantitatively different composition than in
fresh one. Whereas alpha-pinene, 1,8-cineol, alpha-bergamotene, trans-beta-farnesene
and beta-bisabolene seem to contribute to the taste of fresh galanga
equally, the dried rhizome shows lesser variety in aroma components
(cineol and farnesene, mostly). The resin causing the pungent taste
(formerly called galangol or alpinol) consists of several di-arylheptanoids
and phenylalkanones (the latter are also found in ginger and grains
of paradise). Furthermore, the rhizome is high in starch.
may be used fresh or dried in all the cuisines of South east Asia.
The pure and refreshing aroma of the fresh spice will change to a
more medical and sweet taste by drying; most Thai cooks will, therefore,
prefer the fresh rhizome whenever available. It appears frequently
in Thai soups, stir-fries or curries, cut in thin slices for soups
or grated for curries. Like ginger, its aroma merges well with garlic.
Indonesians, on the other hand, frequently use slices or powder of
the fresh or dried rhizome, e.g., for nasi goreng (fried rice with
vegetables and meat).
well-known Indonesian dishes which makes use of dried galangal is
rendang, a spicy beef (or buffalo) stew originally stemming from the
minangkabau people in Western Sumatra. Cubed beef is cooked for at
least one hour in thick coconut milk together with dried chiles, garlic
and dried turmeric, ginger, Indonesian bay-leaves and galangal; some
recipes additionally prescribe Indonesian cinnamon, black pepper or
even fennel. The rather spicy cooking style of the minangkabau people,
named nasi Padang "Padang-food" after their capital, is popular all
over today's Indonesia.
and other use
is used in medicines to treat nausea, stomach problems and catarrh.
It is also recommended as a cure for halitosis in India. It has antibacterial
properties and is used in homeopathic medicines. Galangal is sometimes
confused with other spices of the ginger family. Its taste and appearance
are, however, characteristic; it cannot be substituted by any other