I was first introduced this root (from the ginger family) when I fell in love with and started cooking Tom yum goong. Tom yum is a Thai soup with a, hard to perfect, balance of hot and sour flavours and is exceptionally high in aromatic and visual appeal. I grow a lot of the ingredients for these soups in my kitchen garden, I like it that much :).
However, I generally buy the whole root (pickled) from my local Asian grocer. In Australia it is often called Galanga. It is also commonly available sliced and vacuum packed in the frozen section.
I then use it in one of two ways:
- For soups I add it whole (see the picture above) but I bruise it with a rolling pin or score it with a knife to release the flavour. When the soup is done, I chuck the root into the compost bin.
- In pastes I slice it finely (it is a very hard root and may make the wet blender wobble and or break if you use it whole) and then blend it into the paste.
It is true what they say about regular ginger root being a poor substitute as it is much stronger flavoured in my opinion.
Alpinia galanga, (also Languas galanga), a plant in the ginger family, is an herb used in cooking, especially in Indonesian and Thai cuisines. It is one of four plants known as galangal, and is differentiated from the others with the common name greater galangal (or simply Thai galangal).
An example of a live plant (from wikipedia):