Galangal has a citrus like aroma, working extremely well with its relative, ginger. Unlike ginger (top left, in the picture above) though, galangal isn’t spicy, it’s in fact, a little sweet.
What is Galangal?
In South East Asia, you can easily buy it fresh. Outside of these regions, if you can’t find it fresh, you should be able to get in in powdered or paste form or even in dried slice form, in Oriental shops. The whole fresh rhizome is very hard, and slicing it requires a very sharp knife.
I’ve said it before, here in the UK, we are very fortunate to have access to so many “exotic” ingredients and galangal is easily found in paste form in little jars at major supermarkets. #Some of the major supermarkets here in the UK even sell it fresh in little packs with shallots, garlic, lemongrass and chillies and label them Thai pack. You’ll find it next to the onions and stuff.
The paste is most certainly good enough and saves you the hassle of chopping/grinding it, as fresh galangal is very tough. I always have a jar in the fridge. Of course when I can get hold of a lot of fresh galangal, I make a paste with a little bit of water, pour it into a sterilised jar, top with oil and keep it in the fridge for up to a month.
I’d say an inch/2.5 cm of fresh galangal is roughly 1 tsp of paste.
Substitute for Galangal
None. Ginger is not a substitute for galangal.
The 2 rhizomes have different aromas and flavour profiles. Galangal is sweet and floral, while ginger is citrusy and spicy.
So no matter how many times you read it, it doesn’t make it true! Upping the ginger to make up for lack of galangal is just plain wrong. You’re better off just leaving the galangal out.