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Other Names: Greater galangal: Adkham or khalanjan (Arabic); djus rishe (Farsi); galang (Spanish); galanga maggiore (Italian); galanki (Greek); gengibre do Laos or junça ordinária (Portuguese); grosser galanga or Siam-ingwer (German); khaa (Thai); kulanjan (Hindi); lam keong (Chinese); laos (Indonesian); odorant or souchet long (French); Siamese ginger; son nai (Vietnamese). Lesser galangal: Ban-ukon (Japanese); cekur or kenchur (Malay); China root; Chinese ginger; collic root; East Indian catarrh root; galanga camphré (French); gewürzlilie or kleiner galgant (German); kencur (Indonesian); pro hom (Thai); resurrection lily; tam nai (Vietnamese).

General Description: Greater galangal (Alpinia galangal), in the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family, has a ginger-like rhizome (root-bearing underground stem) formed of plump, pale reddish, cylindrical sections divided by reddish brown rings, with a hard, reddish brown, woody interior. Warm, sweet, and spicy, fresh galangal has a distinct piney fragrance and coarse, fluffy, fibrous texture; dried galangal is spicier and sweeter, somewhere between cinnamon and ginger. Originating in southern China, greater galangal is popular in Thai cooking and is also used in Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and southern China. In Europe and the United States, galangal is just becoming better known, though it was a valued spice in Europe in medieval times. Fresh galangal is preferred for Thai foods; dried galangal is used only when fresh isn’t available. Indonesians frequently use galangal to season nasi goring (fried rice with vegetables and meat) or in Javanese and massaman curries.

Lesser galangal (A. officinarum), also in the ginger family, resembles ginger in shape, though it is much smaller, with dark reddish brown skin, a creamy white soft interior, and a strongly aromatic, medicinal flavor. Though native to south India, it is used only in Malaysia and Indonesia, especially Java and Bali.

Purchase and Avoid: Fresh greater galangal can be found in Asian markets and in well-stocked supermarkets sporadically through-out the year. Choose plump, light red roots with smooth, taut skin. Avoid shriveled or moldy galangal. Lesser galangal is nearly unknown outside Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, though it is available in the Netherlands, which has a large Indonesian community.

Storage: Store fresh galangal in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Fresh galangal may be frozen just like ginger.

Serving Suggestions: Add chopped galangal to Southeast Asian stir-fries. Use ground galangal in green and red Thai curry pastes. Add grated galangal to Laotian green papaya salad.

Food Affinities: Greater galangal: Asian chiles, beef, chicken, cilantro, coconut milk, fish, garlic, lemongrass, lime juice, nam pla, pork, rice, turmeric, yard-long beans. Lesser galangal: Coconut milk, duck, hot green chiles, lemongrass, lime juice, peanut.

from Quirk Books: