27 Aug2006

Galangal / Galingale

by Marketman


The more our palates surf the cuisines of Southeast Asia, the more we realize there are so many more herbs and spices to choose from to infuse our food with flavor… I lived in Singapore and Indonesia for many years but I must say I was not as intensely focused on the local food scene at the time as I should have been. Working an average of 16-18 hours a day, I more often than not ate at hotel restaurants but in some cases, experienced spectacular local food in friends’ homes. While the tastes of Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore always struck my palate as being shockingly good and shockingly different, I never quite figured out the details of their herbs and spices, nor did I get to cook any of it at the time. Only years later in semi-retirement, when I dabbled in some Thai cooking, and realized I missed several Indonesian dishes, did I get to know some of the critical herbs and spices. Today, I actually have a kaffir lime tree in my tiny kitchen garden, my own siling labuyo bushes and a thriving galangal plant given to me by an Indonesian friend…

Galangal or Galingale (Alpinia galangal or Alpinia officinarum) is a relative of ginger. The two varieties differ slightly with the latter having a slightly pink tinge for new growths and it is perhaps more galangal2peppery and spicy than ginger, though not as spicy as any of the capsicain laced chillies. It is an ancient spice and references to it can be found back to the 10th century or earlier. According to Alan Davidson, the “name galingale comes from an Arabic word which in turn came from a Chinese name which meant ‘ginger of Kau-ling,’ the ancient name of Guandong.” I think the type photographed above is known as lesser galangal (Alpinia officinarum) that is smaller and its flavor more intense. Used in soups, stews, curries, marinades, etc. I find it adds that authentic touch to whatever dish you are attempting to replicate outside of its host country… You can sometimes find galangal at the specialy provedores at the upscale weekend markets, along with kaffir lime (rarely fresh), fresh turmeric, etc.



  1. fried-neurons says:

    I think that ingredient gives Thai soups that certain je ne sais quoi. It looks horrid when you see pieces of it floating in the broth, but the flavor it imparts is excellent.

    Aug 27, 2006 | 2:18 pm


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  3. maria says:

    hmmm. first time to encounter this. i will try to use it in my savory dishes and an upcoming bread invention. will contact you about my experiments.

    Aug 27, 2006 | 2:59 pm

  4. gonzo says:

    Yes i’ve always wondered why the countries you mentioned have cuisines that make use of all these interesting herbs and spices and consequently are bursting with flavour, while Philippine cuisine never quite developed the hang of galangal, kaffir lime, et al. Makes their cuisines a relatively easy sell in the West.

    (incidentally, did you know that the name ‘kaffir lime’ is no longer politically correct? Apparently it’s offensive amongst arabs and south african blacks. the, ahem, ‘correct’ terminology is ‘makrut lime leaf’.)

    Aug 27, 2006 | 4:18 pm

  5. Bay_leaf says:

    i work with some Malaysians and the more exposed i am to their cuisine, the more i like it. their ingredients are so diverse and considering that most of them is found in the Philippines, it’s a pity that we don’t use them as much as it really enhances the flavor of the food.
    MM, i received a big packet of ‘Babas’ curry powder from a friend, my curry & rendang preparations have now acquired an authentic Asian taste :)

    Aug 27, 2006 | 5:29 pm

  6. Marketman says:

    Bay leaf, you are right, Malaysia is so close, a neighbor, in fact but their food is so different. Gonzo, yes, you are right too, that makrut is the more proper way to refer to the plant and the lime, but most chefs and cookbooks are stubborn, so “Kaffir” is still more common, albeit unliked, in some parts. Frankly, Makrut sounds just fine to me… It’s the same reason Esso still exists in one or two countries while Exxon is the global standard, or Pajero is a four wheel drive here but renamed a Montero in the Americas, I think…

    Aug 27, 2006 | 6:17 pm

  7. hchie says:

    I got some galagal and fresh curry leaves yesterday at the Salcedo Market, do we have a local name for these curry leaves?

    Aug 27, 2006 | 8:49 pm

  8. Marketman says:

    hchie, I’m not sure if there is a local name. Oddly, curry leaves are used in Indian curries…

    Aug 27, 2006 | 9:02 pm

  9. Apicio says:

    Another casualty of our history nodoubt but not to despair, these are not all too discordant accents that we cannot still adopt and smoothly integrate into our cuisine. On the other hand why would we develop splendid dishes such as pancit palabok (luglog or Malabon), bringe or even our varied versions of fresh lumpia which are way superior to that of others in the area and not the rest of Southeast Asia which presumably has an equal easy access to the same ingredients. I would regard what we have lost as compensated for by what we have gained, our rich array of Spanish influenced specialties and our proficiency in handling wheatflour and sugar.

    Btw, I fear that the appeal of a particular cuisine to outsiders has little to do with its taste as witness the general popularity of raw fish wrapped in seaweed.

    Aug 27, 2006 | 9:20 pm

  10. juls says:

    do you think galangal is available at the seedling bank in qc?

    Aug 27, 2006 | 9:57 pm

  11. Marketman says:

    juls, I’m not sure but you can try… I got my plant from an Indonesian friend who was growing it in her home…

    Aug 28, 2006 | 5:56 am

  12. millet says:

    tausug and maranao cuisine are very similar to malaysian cooking, and they do use a lot of galangal and turmeric. i have had no success growing makrut, makrut, i think, is the same variety of limes as “biasong”, which is common in northern nmindanao, and is used as the principal souring agent of kinilaw there. i love those thai snacks of mixed nuts with some fried chilis, lime and curry leaves thrown in.

    Aug 28, 2006 | 6:33 am

  13. millet says:

    i grow my turmeric both for the roots and the beautiful flowers that bloom only about once a year. i’ve never seen galangal flowers, though.

    Aug 28, 2006 | 6:36 am

  14. Bubut says:

    i’m not sure if those galangal is the one they call in Bicol as “langkwas”. They use is in “padas” or small fish in bagoong isda.

    Aug 28, 2006 | 3:12 pm

  15. skymermaid says:

    my husband’s family grows turmeric for its leaves, not the root. the leaves lends a sublime taste to beef broth. i do not recall them ever using the roots (rhizome, ehem). they just throw them back into the plot and yet they do not die or rot. turmeric is very hard to kill. they just continue propagating themselves and you end up with more than you will ever need. when the plant was threatening to take over the garden, the family uprooted them and the harvest filled a medium sized-bucket. it was all given away. the people in jolo and tawi-tawi though are very imaginative with their turmeric. they say it removes the “lansa” flavor from their more exotic ginataan seafood dishes like curried stingray (?).

    Aug 28, 2006 | 6:21 pm

  16. Marilou says:

    I just bought an excellent new cookbook “Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking From The Spice Islands of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore” by James Oseland that may be of interest to you. It uses a lot of the stuff you mentioned. If you get the chance to check it out it’s also a good read. I just ordered another kafir lime plant. I had one but it died. I’d like a galangal plant too. I wonder if I can start one from a store bought rhizome.

    Aug 28, 2006 | 9:22 pm

  17. Ronx says:

    Hello Marketman!

    Thank you for featuring this ingredient. I grow it in abundance, but I have to admit I don’t use it that much. I went through a curry phase once, but I rapidly grew tired of it, since I was the only one eating the curry. They claim it had too much herbs. What other dishes make use of Galanggal? Tom yum, perhaps?

    and to Marilou – Hiya, that’s how I started with my galanggal. Someone gave me a galanggal rhizome, and it filled up a pot. Then I divided the plant, and planted the cut-up pieces on the ground. Now I have two plots of galanggal. They seem to live forever, since the plots have been growing strong for more than 5 years. I cut off the new leaves and feed them to the goats. Galanggal flavored pinapaitan, I suppose, though I haven’t really tried that.

    I’m curious about the leaves of the galanggal, though. They grow rather large, specially if planted on the ground. Can they be used to wrap up fish, for grilling, in lieu of banana leaves? I’ve been asking around, but I don’t think anyone does this. Or make use of Ginger leaves in cooking. Inputs, anyone?

    Aug 29, 2006 | 5:00 am

  18. Marketman says:

    Ronx, I use galangal in a classic soto ayam which is an Indonesian chicken soup, around with turmeric as well. Marilou, thanks for the tip on the book! Skymermaid, how interesting, I didn’t realize the leaves were useful…I learned something today! Millet the galangal flowers are a bit plain…and white, I think. Bubut, I wonder too if it is the same as langkwas…

    Aug 29, 2006 | 6:08 pm

  19. millet says:

    yes, galangal is langkawas.

    Sep 10, 2006 | 12:07 pm

  20. millet says:

    and yes, ronx, my mother-in-law sometimes wraps fresh anchovies (dilis) or sliced mackerel or tuna in either ginger or turmeric leaves before cooking them as paksiw. it smells heavenly when you unwrap the parcels, and eliminates the fishy smell.

    Sep 10, 2006 | 12:12 pm

  21. J. Adams says:

    Have used dried galingale, both greater and lesser. It is found in medaeval European recipes, one of my favourites beinb Melaches of Pork. (sort of a medaeval sausage quiche). I also like it with chicken dishes, and fish. I use a nutmeg grater on the dried slices of root.
    For some similar recipes, try the book Take a Thousand Eggs or More, or the following website: http://www.florilegium.org/

    Sep 24, 2006 | 11:21 am

  22. Fred says:

    Where can i find Galangal leaves being sold in Manila?

    Jan 15, 2008 | 1:30 am

  23. cathy says:

    yes, i been wondering where to get that galangal here in manila. i brought some from singapore and it really made a difference in my cooking which my family enjoy and begun appreciating thai cuisine, but, very sadly its not available in our local market. Please let me know Fred when you got one.

    Jan 24, 2008 | 1:42 pm

  24. Edwin says:

    It’s been a year now since a chef, who specializes in Thai cooking, gave me a galangal rhizome which I promptly planted in our garden. And just two weeks ago I was surprised to find out that it has propagated well. Now I have some sufficient stock of galangal in the refrigerator. I’m also reserving some roots for planting when I home to our house in Pangasinan.

    As to the lemongrass, I have had no success in making it thrive in our garden; but we have clumps and clumps of it in our backyard in Pangasinan. Perhaps it has something to do with the soil. Help!

    I now have one surviving Kaffir lime plant here in Makati (the other one got injured and soon died). In Pangasinan, the two plants seem healthy (thought I think they grow oh so slowly). Please advise me what to do so that they will grow taller faster so that I may feel more confident about harvesting the leaves for my cooking.

    Thank you, Marketman, for your blog that also touches on our Southeast neighbor countries’ cuisine and herbs and spices. For this I’m getting to know, understand, and “taste” my Asian heritage.

    Aug 18, 2008 | 4:35 pm

  25. jattremua says:

    it is langkwas in bicol a family of ginger and very common in asian countries like philippines, it is also cultivate and grows in some tropical countries, i remember my uncle specialty padas bagoong he always incorporates this langkwas in his homemade padas bagoong also commonly called small bataway in bicol and keeps it for more than a month wella it is very delicious specially with nilagang batag (banana) and kamoteng kahoy..umm really miss this langkwas bataway siganid padas bagoong..

    Sep 3, 2008 | 6:26 pm

  26. rhoi says:

    Hi there… if you want some galangale/langkawas for any purposes, just call me at this # 09164169685. We have lots of sources..

    Dec 27, 2008 | 8:57 pm

  27. RHOI says:


    Jan 12, 2009 | 12:56 pm

  28. mandy says:

    where can i buy some langkawas?

    Aug 3, 2009 | 4:07 pm


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