Galangal is a root from the ginger family that looks a bit like a knobbly Jerusalem artichoke. It is widely used in South-East Asian cuisine, particularly Thai cookery and is an important ingredient in Thai curry pastes. In its raw form, galangal has a stronger taste than common ginger. They are available as a whole rhizome, cut or powdered. The whole fresh rhizome is very hard, and slicing it requires a sharp knife.
The name galangal is derived form the Chinese word for ginger. Botanically it is known as alpinia galanga. This tuber is known to have numerous medicinal and health benefits. Different galangal specimens vary in their hotness and flavor. The spice is said to have a flowery taste, while others describe it as tasting like ginger with cardamom. However, some feel the taste of galangal is more like peppery cinnamon, while lesser galangal has a stronger, hotter, and more medicinal taste. The lesser galangal Languas officinarum is sometimes confused with greater galangal. It comes from China, where it is used as a medicinal herb, but is grown in Indonesia and is regarded as a spice flavor for use in food.
Galangal and other gingery spices are used in Asia and in the Middle East in cooking, perfumes, snuffs, vinegar, beers, and in wines in Russia, and they are used in Germany and elsewhere in teas and aphrodisiacs.
If you don't have galangal, try using any of these substitutes for galangal in your recipe.
Not as pungent as galangal but similar in flavor, ginger root can work as a viable alternative to its more exotic counterpart. Use about one and a half times as much ginger as the recipe calls for in galangal. This will ensure that your recipe is sufficiently potent.
Another exotic rhizome related to ginger, fingerroot is also known as "Chinese ginger" or ka chi. Fingerroot's long, brown protrusions vaguely resemble human fingers. It is popular in Thailand, and its flavor is very similar to ginger but a bit weaker. Use twice as much fingerroot a the recipe calls for in galangal. As a substitute for galangal, fingerroot will suffice only if you use relatively large quantities.