When Anita’s Hot Sauce started developing recipes for “The Torcher” and “The Wrath” sauces we knew bold flavors were required to compete with the spiciness of the super hot chilli peppers. If the sauce was seasoned too lightly then the sauce would have a lot of heat but lack flavor.
The cuisine of southeast Asia has been some of the hottest food in the world. It only seemed fitting to find flavors from this region. When eating Malay or Thai food it can often be hard to pinpoint what ingredients give the food a fresh and vibrant taste. One of those ingredients is galangal.
Galangal is a rhizome that is part of the ginger family. Rhizomes are underground stems that spread out horizontally in search of nutrients. Galangal is native to the Island of Java in Indonesia. It is a common ingredient in South Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai cuisines. It is sold in Asian markets as a whole fresh rhizome, dried, sliced or powder.
Look and Taste
Galangal is a close relative to turmeric and ginger. The skin is smoother and paler than ginger but the flesh is much harder. Often when eating Thai curry you may see thinly sliced discs of fresh or dried galangal floating in the sauce.
Galangal has the spiciness of ginger with hints of citrus, cinnamon and cardamom. While galangal is often called “Thai ginger” or “Siam ginger” it cannot be used interchangeably with ginger in cooking. Galangal has a much stronger flavor.
While there is a lot of publicity for turmeric as the new superfood, galangal has many of the same medicinal benefits as well as several others. It has been used in Chinese and Indian(Ayurveda) medicine for centuries. Some of the benefits are:
It’s a rich source of antioxidants for fighting disease. It contains polyphenols which improve memory, lower blood sugar and bad cholesterol levels.(LDL)
The polyphenols also protect against mental decline, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Studies have suggested that it fights colon, breast, bile duct, skin and liver cancer cells.
Although more research is needed, it may boost male fertility.
Studies have shown galangal extract may reduce inflammation and pain.
In Vietnam, studies have shown it prolongs the shelf life of foods, especially fish.
Cooking with Galangal
In cooking, galangal is used as an aromatic in the same way carrots, shallots or garlic are cooked. It is sauteed into the dish in the beginning.
In south east Asia, it is primarily used in soups and curries. The Malaysians call galangal “lengkuas” and use it as a dry rub for meat. In Singapore, they like to add galangal to braised duck. In cantonese cooking galangal is used for stewing meats, in tea and also in candied form..
Coconut Shrimp Curry
Coconut shrimp curry is a great tasting, super simple and quick to prepare dish. This savory and spicy dish uses both Indian and Thai flavors and is similar to dishes you would find in Malaysia.
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp shrimp paste
2 Tbsp dried turmeric
3 lemon leaves
.5 tsp dried galangal
.5 tsp cumin
1tbsp Lemon grass
Slice of lemon
2 tbsp cooking oil
Anita’s Classic Hot Sauce
Heat cooking oil in a pan and cook shallots on low heat for 30 seconds.
Add turmeric, galangal, lemon leaves, cumin,lemon grass, pepper and mushrooms. Continue to cook for a minute on low heat.
Add coconut milk, salt and shrimp paste. Simmer for three minutes.
Add shrimp and simmer for a minute or two depending on the size of the shrimp.
Add Anita’s Classic Hot Sauce to your taste. Cook for another minute.
Serve with rice and garnish with lime and cilantro.
Galangal is now more common in Taiwan. It is an essential ingredient for south east Asian cuisine. It also has a strong enough flavor to be used in very spicy dishes and sauces. It was an ideal ingredient for Anita’s Hot Sauce.