Galangal is a spice that is derived from the rhizome or root of a plant known as Alpenia galanga.The word galangal, or its variant galanga, can refer in common usage to the aromatic rhizome of any of four plant species in the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family. Its colour ranges from deep orange to brown and it also shares very similar appearances with ginger, but its taste is different. For this reason, galangal is also known as Siamese ginger. Compared to ginger, galangal isn’t as spicy and it has slight hints of cardamom and lemon. Galangal comes in two types – Greater galangal and Lesser galangal. Greater galangal, as the name suggests, is bigger in size but has a milder taste. On the other hand, Lesser galangal, even though it is smaller in size, has stronger, sweeter taste. Greater galangal is much easier to find and more commonly used than Lesser galangal.
Galangal is indigenous to Indonesia. However, today, it is extensively cultivated in most South East Asian countries including Thailand, where it is widely used in many dishes. It is also grown in countries such as China, India, Surinam and Bangladesh. Most South East Asian cuisines use galangal in many of their dishes, especially in their soups, stews and curries. Especially in Thailand, galangal is a key ingredient in their soup and curry recipes.