Galangal also known as Blue Ginger, lengkuas or laos is a rhizome that looks almost like ginger. Galangal is bigger and has a shinier pale skin compared to ginger. The skin of the ginger is softer than that of the galangal. The galangal is harder than ginger and not as juicy as ginger. The center of the galangal is softer and juicer than its hard woody exterior.
Galangal gives off a strong citrus and pine-like scent with an earthy note. It is usually cut into small pieces or thin strips and ground into a paste along with other ingredients to cook an Asian dish. Sometimes, it is also sliced and added to the dish. However, before using galangal, peel the skin. For some dishes like Tom Yam, you may need to slice the galangal and bash it lightly with the back of a knife to bring out the full taste. Galangal must be cooked longer than ginger as it is harder. Ginger can never substitute the flavour and scent of galangal.
In many parts of Asia, galangal is used to heal flatulence, rheumatism and nausea. The galangal has also been used as an aphrodisiac for decades in Asia.
Available in most Asian stores, galangal is also sold dried and powdered and sometimes labelled as Laos Galangal powder. You can substitute about 2 cm of fresh galangal with 1 1/2 teaspoon of galangal powder. If using the dried galangal, soak it in hot water for about half hour before slicing or cooking it. Wrap galangal in kitchen towel and then in Ziploc bag and store it in the refrigerator.
It can keep for almost one month. Even if it becomes dry in the refrigerator, you can still use as the aroma will still be intact.