Cooking 101 – Galangal and South East Asian Cuisine

Cooking 101 - 002 Galangal edited re-sized Galangal is a common ingredient in Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Singaporean cuisines. It is a rhizome in the same family as ginger but it is much milder in flavour and it has a sweeter fragrance. Its more delicate and sweet fragrance is easily lost in older parts of the rhizome. Freezing and drying into powder form does not retain its flavour well. The cook in my father’s home had explained that this rhizome gives the ingredients a fresh lift when added to the dish. I appreciate this aspect. The main draw back of this rhizome is its fibrous nature, making it difficult to slice without a sharp strong knife and some elbow grease unless you are fortunate enough to purchase a young rhizome. When I see young galangal for sale, I do buy a large quantity to process as described below. My helper makes the paste once in a few months. I also grow it in my garden but it takes quite a number of months for a young plant to mature enough to harvest. CUis Above images of Galangal plant and the rhizome are more commonly grown in Thailand. Images taken from


What we find more readily in our markets is shown above. A larger rhizome. It is the pinkish part of the rhizome that is the young tender part and gives most flavour. Peel, cut and rough chop the rhizome. Fill your chopper or blender with as much rough chopped galangal as it can hold. If necessary, add in a tablespoon or more of cooking oil (not olive oil) to lubricate the mixture for easier and finer grinding of the chunks of galangal. Grind the mixture till it looks as fine as the mixture in the photo above. Fry the mixture in a saucepan over medium high heat till it dries. Look at the photo below. Cool this galangal “paste”. Store in a sterilized glass bottle, refrigerated. Add it into your recipes. This bottle keeps well in the fridge and if you take care to always use a very clean spoon to take out what you need for your recipe, it keeps for 3 months. Some examples of more well known dishes which use galangal are Penang Assam Laksa, Singapore Laksa Lemak, Teochew Beef Kueh Teow soup,Teochew Braised Duck. A posted recipe that uses galangal and is Beef Rendang (Click here).


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