Galangal, not to be confused with ginger is also known as blue ginger, Siamese ginger and Thai ginger. Greater galangal is a rhizomatous perennial producing several 2m stalks with alternate sheathing leaves. The flowers are followed by red three-valved fruits. The white fleshed rhizomes have a characteristic spice and pine fragrance, and are widely used in Asian cooking. The flowers, flower buds and cardamom-scented red fruits are all edible.
Galangal requires warm temperate to subtropical conditions and grows best in rich, moist, well drained soils. It is an annual crop grown by seed or from rhizome segments. Cut them so that each segment contains one or two buds.
For fresh culinary use, dig up the rhizomes in late summer or early autumn. Store fresh galangal in a cool, dark place for up to 2 weeks. Dry the root about 10 months after planting. Store dried slices in an airtight container in a dry, dark place for 2 – 3 years.
Galangals’ flavour is similar to ginger’s but is not as strong. Use the rhizomes fresh, or in dried slices, with fish and in soups. Before using dried slices, soak them in hot water for 30 minutes. If you cannot find galangal substitute half the quantity in your recipe with grated fresh ginger.