Wednesday, 4 March 2009


The GALANGAL plant is a rhizome with culinary and medicinal uses. It is known as “kha or krachai” in Thailand. “lengkuas or kencur” in Malaysia, “laos or kencor” in Indonesia and “barakalinjan or kulanjan” in India . It used in various oriental cuisines (for example in Thai cuisine in Tom Yum soups and throughout Malay and Indonesian cuisine, for example, in Nasi Goreng). Though it resembles the ginger (which it is related to), there is little similarity in taste. GALANGAL is widely cultivated in South East Asia in a similar manner to ginger.

In its raw form, GALANGAL has a citrus, earthy aroma, with hints of pine in the flavor. It is available as a fresh whole root, or dried sliced or powdered. The whole fresh root is very hard, and requires both a sharp knife and care to slice. A mixture of GALANGAL and lime juice is used as a tonic in parts of Southeast Asia. It is said to have the effect of an aphrodisiac, and act as a stimulant. In the Indonesian language, greater GALANGAL is called lengkuas or laos and lesser GALANGAL is called kencur.

The word GALANGAL is used as a common name for all members of the genus Alpinia, and in common usage can refer to four plants, all in the Zingiberaceae (ginger family):

* Alpinia galanga or greater galangal
* Alpinia officinarum or lesser galangal
* Kaempferia galanga, also called lesser galangal or sand ginger
* Boesenbergia pandurata, also called Chinese ginger or fingerroot

Alpinia galanga is also known as Chewing John, Little John Chew and GALANGAL root. It is used in African-American folk medicine and hoodoo folk magic.

Greater GALANGAL is native to Java. It is widely used in Indonesia and Malaysia as a food flavouring and spice. Lesser GALANGAL is native to China, growing mainly on the southeast coast. It is also grown in India and the rest of South East Asia. Although barely used in Europe today, both GALANGAL were formerly imported in great quantity, as medicine and spice. GALANGAL was known to the ancient Indians, and has been in the West since the Middle Ages. Its stimulant and tonic properties are recognized by the Arabs who ginger up their horses with it, and by the Tartars, who take it in tea. In the East, it is taken powdered as a snuff, and is used in perfumery and in brewing.

Use GALANGAL like ginger – either powdered, sliced, bruised or crushed. One slice of the root is equivalent to half a teaspoon of powder. Generally small quantities are specified in recipes, greater GALANGAL being used in larger amounts than lesser GALANGAL. The powders should be stored in airtight containers and used within a short space of time.

The use of greater GALANGAL is confined to local Malaysian and Indonesian dishes such as curries. Although known in Europe since the Middle Ages, GALANGAL is now used only in Far Eastern cookery from Indonesia, Indochina, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Like ginger, GALANGAL is a ‘de-fisher’ and so appears frequently in fish and shellfish recipes often with garlic, ginger, chilli and lemon or tamarind. GALANGAL powder is used in a wide variety of dishes such as sauces, soups, satays and sambals, chicken, meat and vegetable curries. Although used in the often searingly hot Indonesian cookery, GALANGAL powder enhances dishes such as chicken delicately spiced with fennel and lemon grass and gently cooked in coconut milk. However, these mild dishes are usually accompanied by vegetable or fish sambals fiery with chili.


Resembling ginger in its effects, GALANGAL is an aromatic stimulant, carminative and stomachic. It is used against nausea, flatulence, dyspepsia, rheumatism, catarrh and enteritis. It also possesses tonic and antibacterial qualities and is used for these properties in veterinary and homeopathic medicine. In India it is used as a body deodorizer and halitosis remedy. Both GALANGAL have been used in Europe and Asia as an aphrodisiac for centuries.


Anonymous said...

How are you?
Need to catch up for a cuppa sometime after sitting week.
Your squid sambal brought water to my mouth.


VG said...

Hi Annie

Thanks for dropping by, noting how busy you are. Definitely need to catch up. Been really unwell. Actually just got back from the docs!

Glad you liked the sambal. I'll bring some to work for you when I make it next.