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Greater Galangal

Greater Galangal

(Alpinia galanga) Native to Java and Malaysia, galangal belongs to the Zingiberaceae family, the most famous member of which is ginger (Zingiber officinale). The rhizome of greater galangal resembles ginger in appearance, and is sometimes called Thai ginger or Siamese ginger, but its flavor is different, with an aroma reminiscent of camphor. The fresh root is much denser than ginger and if at all mature, cutting it requires a sharp cleaver and considerable effort.

Purchasing and storing : Galangal may be purchased sliced and bottled in brine. This is more tender and less fibrous. Bottled galangal is also kinder to the electric blender when making spice pastes. After opening, store the bottle in the refrigerator and it will keep for months. Galangal is used in Indonesian, Malaysian and Nyonya cooking and also in Thai food where it takes the predominant place ginger has in the cooking of almost every other Asian country. For examples of recipes which rely on galangal for their distinctive flavor is the Tom Kha Gai or Chicken and Galangal Soup.

Preparation : If using galangal slices in brine, simply chop it roughly before pounding or blending into curry paste. If tender fresh galangal is available, wash the rhizomes and scrape away any woody parts before chopping. Galangal is also sold dried, in slices. This is fine for simmering in a soup or curry (soak in very hot water for at least 30 minutes first) but it should not be ground in food processor or blender. Also available in powdered form, but the flavor is more muted than the brined slices. As with all dried herbs and spices, store in an airtight container.

Medicinal uses : Fresh rhizomes are used in the treatment of diarrhea, vomiting, flatulence and intestinal worms.

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