Galangal is ginger’s citrusy cousin, a rhizome used frequently in Asian, Southeast Asian, and Indian cuisines. It’s peppery and spicy with a zesty bite and a whiff of pine. While Galangal isn’t as common as ginger, it’s a flavorful ingredient that may be found dried, powdered, or fresh. According to Catherine Ko, RDN, a Los Angeles-based dietitian, Galangal is a closely related vegetable that can add more zing or flare to sour soups and stews.
Galangal root, native to Southeast Asia, resembles ginger so much that it’s frequently referred to as “Thai ginger” or “Siamese ginger.” Galangal is used in Southeast Asian cuisines such as Thai, Indonesian, and Vietnamese cooking, but ginger is used more widely. Both ginger and Galangal (along with other spices like cardamom and turmeric) are rhizomes. Still, their flavours are extremely different: ginger is hot and not sweet, whereas Galangal has a sharper, lemony flavour. Galangal’s skin is smoother and paler than ginger’s, and its flesh is tougher.
What is the Difference Between Galangal and Ginger?
It’s simple to see how ginger and Galangal could be mistaken. They have a similar appearance, but Galangal is also Thai or Siamese ginger. Even though they are both rhizomes from the same family, they have distinct flavours. True ginger has a spicy, earthy flavour with a hint of sweetness and dampness in the fibres. Galangal is thicker and drier, with a piney, citrus-tinged flavour. Both can be powdered or dehydrated, and both must be peeled when fresh. When Galangal is called for in a recipe, ginger is often suggested as a substitute.
While the outward appearance of Galangal and ginger is similar, with fibrous, rough, oval or irregular-shaped, and hardened rhizomes, there is a significant difference in taste. While ginger has a sweet and spicy flavour, Galangal has peppery undertones and is highly intense and harsh in flavour. However, in Asian cooking, these roots can be used interchangeably to make teas, soups, and curries. Aside from fresh ginger and galangal roots, pulverized powders of both are frequently offered in markets for the wide range of medicinal ingredients and therapeutic benefits to improve general health.
In the ginger family, Galangal and ginger are rhizomes, a sort of underground creeping stem of a plant that shoots out shooters to generate new plants (turmeric and cardamom are also in this family). The most significant difference is in flavour galangal has a harsh lemony, almost piney flavour, whereas ginger is fresh, pungently spicy, and barely sweet. Therefore they cannot be used interchangeably.
What is Galangal?
Galangal is a rhizome, an underground plant stem that shoots off shooters to spawn new growth and is used as a spice and fragrant. It’s linked to the spice ginger and belongs to the Zingiberaceae family (commonly known as ginger). It has a thin skin and tube-like lengths that split off into nodes, similar to ginger. Even though ginger and Galangal are comparable and utilized similarly, Galangal has its subtleties. It’s popular in Cambodian, Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Singaporean, and Laotian cuisines.
Galangal is often Thai ginger or Siamese ginger (its strong resemblance to fresh ginger), but it is a separate component. It’s a popular ingredient in Thai, Indonesian, and Malaysian cuisine. Galangal has a smoother, paler skin than ginger, and its meat is much tougher. It can’t be grated like ginger, so you’ll have to slice it instead. Galangal has a significantly stronger flavour, earthy, spicy, and lemony.
Varieties of Galangal
Galangal comes in three varieties: lesser galangal, greater galangal, and light galangal. Lesser Galangal is a Chinese rhizome with a peppery bite and a tangier flavour than the other rhizomes. Greater Galangal is a taller plant with a milder flavour that grows in Indonesia, notably on the island of Java. The flavour of light Galangal, which comes from the Eastern Archipelago in southeast India, is the most similar to that of actual ginger.
What are the Health Benefits of Galangal?
Boosts Immune System
In healthy people, consuming some galangal essence and a regular diet will suffice to meet their daily vitamin C requirements. Vitamin C aids in iron absorption for better blood circulation, but it also helps increase the immunity of white blood cells in the body. Vitamin C is also necessary for the growth and development of all bodily tissues and is a critical antioxidant for removing toxins from the system.
Maintains Heart Health
Galangal aids in the maintenance of normal blood pressure because of its high potassium content. It also helps to promote heart muscle activity, lower bad LDL cholesterol levels, and raise good HDL cholesterol levels. Galangal is beneficial in reducing heart attacks and strokes and thus adds to a longer and healthier life span.
Relaxes Muscle Cramps
Galangal contains magnesium, an essential mineral for proper muscle function. Galangal roots have a high magnesium concentration, making them excellent for muscle cramp treatment. Furthermore, after a high-intensity workout, when muscles in the arms and legs are stretched, drinking warm water infused with galangal powder helps relieve pain and suffering almost immediately.
Prevents Cold And Flu
Fresh Galangal enhances blood circulation with strong antioxidants, which play a critical role in avoiding toxin buildup. A buildup of dangerous molecules causes illnesses including the common cold, allergies, asthma, and other conditions in which the immune system fails to function properly. Galangal is high in vitamin C, which helps to strengthen the body’s natural defences and prevent colds and flu.
Effectually Combats Cancer
Galangal root has a wealth of minerals, especially bioflavonoids, a type of plant-based antioxidant. These reduce the symptoms of pancreatic and intestinal tumours greatly. Galangal can also help prevent breast cancer by removing excess estrogen, a female reproductive hormone involved in breast development. The dietary fibres in galangal help prevent colon cancer and improve gut health.
Galangal contains important dietary fibres that support normal bowel movements after a big meal. This is necessary to maintain kidney function and filter out any hazardous waste products produced by food digestion and nutrient absorption. It also effectively treats gastrointestinal issues such as constipation and indigestion.
The calcium in the galangal root is absorbed by the body’s bones, assisting in maintaining adequate bone density for day-to-day functioning and unrestricted movement. Galangal’s high potassium concentration aids bone health by increasing mineral uptake by cells and tissues throughout the body.
Combats Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Galangal has a lot of vitamin C, which has anti-inflammatory qualities and helps minimize bladder swelling, which is more common in women than in males. Its antioxidant properties are also beneficial in eliminating damaging free radicals and germs from the body. As a result, the healthy cells in the excretory system organs are protected from oxidation, ensuring proper waste and food residue evacuation from the body and preventing their accumulation in the system.
Helps Cure Anemia
Vitamin C also enhances iron absorption from eating food, a highly important function in the human body. Anemia is a disorder in which the body does not have enough red blood cells to deliver nutrients and oxygen to all cells and tissues due to an iron deficiency. Galangal is the diet that ensures adequate iron absorption from foods and promotes red blood cell formation and blood flow.
What does it Taste Like?
Though Galangal resembles ordinary ginger in appearance, the flavour is less hot and has a pepper backbone. The rhizome also has a citrus flavour with lemongrass and fresh fruits. Galangal’s lemony side also lends it a chilly pine flavour, which may be detected through its smell. Taste: Galangal has a lemony, somewhat peppery flavour with a hint of pine, while ginger has a spicy, peppery flavour. Despite their similar appearances, they are not interchangeable due to a significant difference in taste.
Galangal Uses for Skin and Hair:
Reduces Skin Inflammation
Galangal includes various necessary amino acids that aid in the formation of healthy skin cells and reduce redness and swelling that can occur when skin is subjected to severe environmental conditions. Its high flavonoid concentration gives it antioxidant properties that help to fight free radical damage, reduce acne, scars, and dark spots, and soothe skin irritation.
Galangal contains spermidine, which helps slow down skin cells’ ageing process. The flavonoid carotene class of plant antioxidants also helps to reduce the look of wrinkles, fine lines, and sunken skin. Drinking a glass of warm galangal tea can also assist in increasing collagen production, which is important for preserving skin suppleness and firmness.
What are the Uses of Galangal in Ayurveda
Galangal has been used in Ayurveda for millennia in the form of leaf, root, powder, and juice. They are filled with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant ingredients to produce Ayurveda concoctions and tonics to treat illnesses including fevers, jaundice, heart problems, and bone abnormalities.
Remedies Heart Ailments
Galangal Extract is one of the most effective treatments for heart problems such as palpitations, irregular heartbeats, chest pain, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. A dose of two teaspoons of galangal root powder extract is given to individuals with heart problems in traditional Indian medicine to enhance blood circulation and alleviate the difficulties in doing normal day-to-day activities.
The phytonutrients or plant components found in galangal leaves have a natural ability to lower temperature. When galangal leaves are massaged on a person with a high fever, they provide instant relief, lowering body temperature and tiredness symptoms. Galangal leaves also evacuate excess water and salts from the body, which helps maintain appropriate electrolyte balance because regular metabolism is disrupted during fevers.
Polyphenols, tannins, and quercetin are found in galangal leaves, and they play an important role in enhancing the body’s defensive system and liver function. Galangal leaves also contain a significant amount of Vitamin C, which helps patients with jaundice improve their defence function and antioxidant capacity. To treat jaundice, an ayurvedic therapy consists of mashing galangal leaves with coriander seeds and drinking them twice a day.
Remedies Gum Damage
Gum bleeding and loose tissue can result from a lack of sufficient nourishment from the diet. A Vitamin C deficiency primarily causes this. Furthermore, the epidermal layers lining the gums must be maintained, as collagen depletion can harm the gums and teeth. Galangal aids in the prevention of dental issues.
Regulates Blood Cholesterol Levels
Galangal root powder has a high pectin content, which helps to eliminate undesirable deposits in the arteries. It also monitors poor LDL and good HDL cholesterol levels, allowing for maintaining an appropriate blood cholesterol level. Potassium regulates electrolyte balance in the bloodstream, which helps to keep blood pressure in check. As a result, galangal extract is beneficial to persons with hypertension and improves heart function.
In certain patients, thyroid hormone levels fluctuate and rise over the usual range, resulting in hyperthyroidism. Galangal root is high in iodine, which is necessary for lowering thyroid hormone levels and zinc, which aids enzyme action and helps to optimize thyroid concentrations.
Treats Hair Loss
When a paste made from galangal extracts was applied to the scalp in cases of severe hair loss, it improved blood circulation and nerve activity, facilitating rapid hair growth. The high carotene content in galangal paste extract counteracts these causes, reducing continual hair fall and improving the strength and texture of hair.
Recovers Joint Illnesses
Galangal tea decreases bone and muscle pain and treats joint problems such as arthritis, osteoporosis, gout, and fractures by acting as an anti-inflammatory. It also contains the three vital bone-fortifying minerals, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous, all of which assist in strengthening bone mass and restoring flexibility in muscles and joints.
Can I Substitute Galangal for Ginger?
Because Galangal is more intense than ginger, you can use 1 to 114% more when substituting (for example, if the recipe asks for one tablespoon of ginger, use 1 to 114% more Galangal). Replace fresh ginger with equal parts grated or chopped Galangal, and adjust to taste if you want it stronger. This is the most common galangal replacement. Add a pinch of lime zest or fresh lime leaves if the ginger lacks the piney or citrusy flavour you’re looking for.
The galangal plant thrives in the hot climates of Southern Asia, such as China, India, Thailand, and Indonesia. Greater Galangal is also known in English as Thai ginger and in Hindi as “Kulanjan,” “Bara Kulanjan,” “Dhumarashmi” in Kannada, “Aratta” in Malayalam, and “Perarattai” in Tamil. It’s a rhizome with a greenish tint, red or light yellow colour, and a pungent odour that sprouts up to 2 metres above ground from the soil’s surface. The flowers are yellow or green, with a lovely aroma, and the leaves are tall and bright green with an alternate arrangement.