Botanical Name: Alpina galanga

Family: Zingiberaceae

Hindi Name: Kulinjan

Originally from Southeast Asia and southern China, galangal is now cultivated in Indo-China, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Greater galangal is mostly referred to as galangale or galangal, and is a very popular all over Southeast Asia and is used especially in the cuisines of Thailand. Galangal root is also known as smaller galangal or Kadise galangal minoris. Indigenous to India, galangal grows perfectly along the eastern Himalayas, and in Southwest India.

The plant grows to an average height of two metres, and bears perennial rhizomes. The ginger-like rootstock is built from cylindrical sub-units whose pale-reddish surface is characteristically cross-striped by deep orange-brown, small rings. The interior has about the same colour as the skin, and is hard and woody in texture. The rhizome is aromatic, pungent and bitter. The fruits are about 13mm long, and constricted in the middle, each having 3-6 seeds that are less pungent than the rhizome, and have the same aroma. The leaves and seeds are aromatic but are rarely used for flavouring purposes.

Galangal oil is a pale-yellow or olive-brown liquid, having comphoraceous-like bitter taste. The rhizome yields both oleoresin and essential oil. Galangal has been a valued spice since the early Middle Ages. Used fresh or dried, an exotic flavour with a distinct aroma and taste is experienced.

In most Southeast Asian countries, dried galangal is used only in the absence of the fresh ones, whereas in Indonesia, slices or powder of the fresh or dried rhizomes are frequently used. Lesser galangal. hardly known in the west, is used mainly by Malaysians and Indonesians, especially in Java and Bali.

Slices of the dried rhizome are cooked with vegetable or meat dishes, but mostly the spice is used fresh, grated or crushed. It appears in Javanese cooking in their spicy-sweet foods, like the sambal kacang that is peanut sauce. The Balinese roast duck, known as bebek betulu, is a favourite with tourists in Bali. In this dish the lesser galangal is used with other spices to marinate the duck. The volatile oil of galangal is used for medicinal purpose.

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