Meet ginger’s spicier, more exotic cousin.

Meet ginger’s spicier, more exotic cousin.

What is it?

Galangal is a rhizome that’s smooth and pink-peach in color with dark rings lining the outside. Though often named as a ginger substitute, the ingredients are not as interchangeable as they seem: While ginger is spicy-sweet and abrasive, galangal has deep notes of pine needles, pepper and a floral undercurrent reminiscent of unripe pears, with a citrus finish. Dried galangal is a tamped down version of the root; fresh galangal (or frozen) is the only way to go if you want to experience all those layers of flavor. If you’re not sure you’ve had it, you likely have. It’s used predominantly in Southeast Asian cuisine, most commonly in Thai curry pastes.

What do I do with it?

Although its recent popularity has bought it some real estate on standard grocery store shelves, your best bet to find galangal is still Asian or international markets. Using it for curry seems obvious, but I also like to use slices of it in poaching or braising liquids for salmon, chicken, collards or kale along with coconut milk, lime and chile – it’s a fast, easy way to big flavor. By late winter, even the most soul-warming soups have lost their sparkle; you might also consider adding some galangal and a few spices to those tried-and-true recipes to give them new life.

Shannon Weber is the creator, author and photographer behind the award-winning, and her work has appeared on websites such as Bon Appétit, Serious Eats and America’s Test Kitchen.

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