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Botanically, galangal is a family of plants native to Southeast Asia that are related to (but distinct from) ginger. In a culinary sense, galangal is the rhizome of these plants — and while there are technically a couple different types, in practice the term galangal generally refers to the same single type of galangal that’s become standard.

In appearance, galangal is lighter and smoother than ginger, and doesn’t have thick skin that must be peeled. Flavor-wise, galangal is very pungent and has less of that hot  ginger kick, and instead is cooler and more earthy than “spicy.”  

Galangal is a key ingredient in many Southeast Asian dishes, including Thai and Lao curries and soups. Commonly it’s prepared for infusion by being ground to a paste; it can also be sliced thin or less commonly chopped finely, but this opens up the possibility for its tough texture to get in the way of the dishes it’s flavoring. 

Like ginger, galangal’s thought to be good for digestive health and settling an upset stomach. It’s also high in antioxidants and thought to be anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory. 

You can find fresh galangal at Uwajimaya in our produce section.