Perhaps only those who have the habit of eating traditional Asian recipes or have personally visited countries of this continent, have wondered what is the galangal and how it is used. In fact, this plant comes to us from South East Asia and has not yet made it into our country even though it has numerous properties and is well suited to many recipes also national, such as risotto.
Galanga: what it is
With this term we are going to indicate the edible part of a root commonly called Thai ginger, a plant belonging to the Zingiberaceae family, which has the scientific name of Alpinia Galanga. From town to town it changes its name, we find it called Galangal, Lengkaus (in Malaysia), Laos or Kecur (in Indonesia), Kah (in Thailand),
The plant from which we derive this root grows luxuriantly with real leaves, but produces red or streaked flowers in spring. In Italy it does not exist, nor in the rest of the continent, which is why it is difficult today for it to catch on as a fashion ingredient and remain used exclusively in South East Asia, with pre-eminence Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. It was once also used elsewhere, in ancient Egypt for fumigations and in Europe in the Middle Ages to prepare a liqueur called Hippocras, but then it is no longer seen and today it appears on the menu of some Thai restaurants as a typical and unknown ingredient.
Much like ginger root, the galangal it has a very intense taste that must be measured in the kitchen, as we will see, to avoid the dishes being too much strong and tasty. It does not have great nutritional properties and in fact it is an ingredient that is only used to give a pinch of flavor, certainly not to give substance, and a sprinkling of it is enough. In a spoonful of cooked root, we find only 5 calories. No fiber, or almost, and not even many vitamins or mineral salts, so it does not change the balance of our diet and gives a touch of flavor. Its active ingredients are represented by volatile oil and resin, there are also various active chemicals such as sequiterpenes (naturally alcoholic), eugenol (clove oil) and galangin, an antioxidant enzyme.
Not caloric, the Galanga however, it has important healing properties officially recognized by traditional Chinese medicine. The resulting benefits mainly concern the respiratory system. In this sense we find very simple and effective remedies such as drinks based on lime juicewith a grated of galangal, perfect against colds and coughs.
That's not all, though. This root favors the intestinal regularity and aids digestion, fights nausea and even heartburn. There are also legends surrounding the galangal, and it is said to be very powerful as well stimulating of sexual desire, in men, and very effective in driving out demonic presences.
There are also studies on the beneficial effects in the treatment of cancer, especially lung and breast cancer due to its own antioxidant properties. Experiments so far show that this root kills cancer cells and protects healthy ones. To date, doctors behave cautiously with respect to these results which are neither official nor complete and still unknown side effects are not excluded.
Galanga in the kitchen
As we have already specified, it is necessary to be very cautious in using this ingredient due to its flavor which tends to dominate. To use it usually takes the root, or a piece of root, and mash or mince it, so that it releases its intense flavor. If we look for it online, we also find packages in which it is dried or in powder form.
Compared to ginger, to which it is always accompanied, the galangal it is sweeter and more fruity, it has a slightly spicy aftertaste but not too much. It can be used to make curry but also in many other meat and fish dishes, often together with garlic, lemon, chilli or white pepper.
As recipes with galangal we can find the Thai chicken soup or even many risottos or legume dishes that need to be flavored. In India it is used a bit alternative because it is included in blends for herbal teas or in body hygiene products.
Contraindications of galangal
There is no official list of side effects and contraindications relating to this ingredient to be discovered, but we can say that it is better to speak to a doctor if you intend to use it frequently. For example, it can annoy those with a delicate stomach, and those who take gods medications it could interact with, causing unwanted effects. Especially pregnant women must use it cautiously, the side effects should not be serious but certainly not pleasant: stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea