UPON arriving in Saudi Arabia, Galangal (also called Greater Galangal or Khalanjan as the Saudis call it) was the first new spice I was introduced to in the Kingdom. My mother in law gave me a huge jar to use when cooking as she loves spices as much as I do and knew I would be pleased with receiving my new treasure. At first I had no idea what dishes my new spice should be used in but I quickly was taught and have been using it ever since.
Galangal is a member of the ginger family which you can easily see by looking at the spice, they look very similar. Galangal is used daily in Southeast Asian cooking and it was the Southeast Asians who introduced the spice to Saudi Arabia. However, Asians like to use fresh and dried in cooking while the Saudis only use the dried version. The smell or taste is hard to describe and another spice could not easily replace it. The spice would be categorized as a pungent spice.
Throughout history Galangal has been documented for a variety of various uses. Europe used the spice for both medicinal and culinary purposes. The ancient Indians were known to use it. The Arabs gave it to their horses to stir them up and in the Orient the powder form was used as a snuff. Lesser Galangal which is smaller and brighter is what Asians have used for centuries in medical applications and this version is rarely used in cooking.
Galangal is used in popular Saudi dishes such as kabsa and bukhari and can be bought freshly at stores such as Lulu and later dried out. When using galangal you just toss a piece usually about 1-2 inches long into the dish and take out before serving. It is very important to store the dried spice in a glass jar and kept in a cool, dark place in which it should hold taste for 2-3 years. Some popular dishes around the world that you may also know Galangal from are Thai soups, Asian curries or stir-fries and sambal paste you can even find it in spice blends such as Thai curry blends, laksa spice mixes and ras el hanout.
Spices galangal compliment well with: