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Galangal vs. ginger

I just taste tested grated galangal (which I have used for years) vs. grated ginger. The galangal, which is called an "upscale version of ginger," is very hot/spicy--tip of the tongue spicy. The ginger is still hot but milder. Is that your experience, or has the galangal been in the freezer too long?

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  1. "Upscale version of ginger" is a really weird way to describe galangal. They are two totally different roots with different flavors and which contribute differently to the dishes in which they are used. Ginger does have a sharp pungency while galangal's pungency is more muted. Galangal is somehow more perfumey and has pine notes. But to me this is an apples vs. oranges matter. In regional cuisines where galangal is used, many recipes contain both galangal and ginger, not either or.

    1 Reply
    1. re: luckyfatima

      Very well described. I was thinking at first that galangal had a citrusy note, but I think pine is a bit more on the mark. In any case, I cannot see two roots as subs for each other, I could imagine that they could be effective in the same recipe. It would just make it a different dish. So, they're that close.

      It would be akin to subbing (quite salty) Pecorino Romano for Parmagianio.

    2. I never heard it described as an "upscale version of ginger."

      Galangal is overpowering compared to ginger, but not as hot/spicy to me as really fresh ginger. Very different with so much more going on. I love the woody, menthol, pine, medicinal, spicy, fragrant, perfumed, complex flavor and aroma.

      Does anyone else get a bit of a buzz when they eat galangal? I get a slightly giggly high, which then turns mellow. And then crazy, fun dreams that I remember and seem very real. I don't normally remember dreams, except if I eat galangal or make tea with it or hops.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JMF

        I always considered galangal more subdued as luckyfatima said, but I heard Luke Nguyen refer to it as an "upscale" version of ginger or perhaps "the elegant sister" of ginger--something like that. So it got me to thinking more about the differences. I have used galangal for many years since I lived in Singapore and ginger, of course, forever. But when I grated galangal for Thai green curry sauce today, it was REALLY spice and hot. Really good. I love them both.

        Psychadelic galangal, I don't know. Maybe I'll have to try that :-)

      2. So after thinking about this thread I picked up some nice fresh hands of galangal today. Price is up a bit to $5.99lb. which is almost double what I normally pay. I tasted some and you are right, the crop selling right now is very hot and peppery. I never tasted such peppery galangal before.

        I sliced up a few inches paper thin and am making a liter of galangal honey tea as a way to wind down after a long week. No cocktails for me right now. I'm on a two week detox and health kick and galangal is full of anti-oxidants and also good for arthritis. I've been having a bit of an achy joint attack the past few days, so let's see if it works.

        I noticed they had young ginger besides mature ginger at the local H-Mart, and picked up some of that to juice. Same crazy price as the galangal so I didn't pick up much. I usually like to pay $.99-1.49 lb for ginger.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JMF

          I don't know why it's so darned expensive right now. I buy a lot of fresh turmeric root to make broth and it's very cheap. Did not know about galangal benefits and will give that a try. I really like the taste of this peppery crop and will get some more. I got mine at WFM.

          1. re: JMF

            On a side note, I feel that too much wheat affects my joints.

          2. I was recently in Bali for a holiday and spent a day at the Paon Bali Cooking Class learning Balinese style and several of the recipes we created contained either Galangal or Ginger but only one had both (Yellow Sauce) the rest had "Lesser Galangal" so that it didn't overtake the flavour of the Ginger as Galangal will do but the rule of thumb was not to use both together.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Robj

              If you do not like the price of ginger, Grow your own just buy the root and plant it in the ground it will grow inside easily. Then when you need a hunk of it just take a knife and cut it off the root. It will or should be very fresh.

              1. re: oldman83

                I've heard this and tried it in the spring but I don't think it likes our climate here in the high desert. It didn't grow. I don't mind the price of ginger, but with our extremely arid climate, it doesn't last long.

                1. re: sandiasingh

                  Buy some good dirt and plant it indoors and try again and let me know how it does. Silviodd@cox.net

                  1. re: oldman83

                    Hey, I will do that. Didn't think about growing it inside (duh):-)

                    1. re: sandiasingh

                      You will have enough shade, but not enough humidity if you're going the indoor route. You're better off buying the root than grow it.

            2. I won't call it "upscaled" ginger. It may be more expensive, but I don't consider it as upscale.

              As for your experience, I think it is normal.