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Young Galangal consists of the bright white, smooth, almost shiny rhizome with pink shoulders where the stems grow from the bulb. The entirely edible plant is very in similar appearance to fresh ginger with leaves. The plant is harvested when it reaches between one and three feet in height, which is only about a third of its mature height. The young rhizome and stalks impart a subtle Galangal spiciness but still retain a robust citrus and earthy flavor. It is full of oil, aromatic and flavorful. The mature root, referred to as “Old Galangal” is harvested at least a year later.
Young Galangal is available in fall and early winter.
Young Galangal, also known as Kha Oon in Thailand, is a member of the Zingiberaceae family. The harvested plant is the immature root and stem of the better known Galangal rhizome. It is related to ginger and is used as an aromatic in Thai and Asian cuisine.
Galangal is revered in Ayurvedic medicine. It is used as a digestive stimulant, to settle an upset stomach and ease nausea and flatulence.
Young Galangal, both the small rhizome, stem and leaves are used. The plant is used much like lemongrass as an aromatic. Young Galangal is most common in Thai cuisine and is called for in recipes for soups like Tom Yum and Tom Kha, Thai curry paste and fish dishes. Galangal is considered a “de-fisher” and is often used in fish dishes to tone down the stronger flavors of some fish. To prepare stems, any reddish brown portion is peeled off to reveal the tender young shoot beneath. The fibrous green stalk and large, elongated, blade-like leaves can be used to make juice, infuse curries, sauces and steeped to make tea. Young Galangal can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days before it begins to wilt.
Young Galangal is often found in dishes throughout Phuket, an island in southern Thailand. It is used in a sour soup called Tom Som Kha Oon made with both banana and Young Galangal stems. The older root has a history in medieval Europe, during which period it was known as "galingale” and it had wide use as a spice and aphrodisiac.
Young Galangal is native to the grasslands of Southern China and Southeast Asia. Young Galangal is foraged, grown by home cooks and cultivated on plantations and is commonly found in markets throughout Thailand, Malaysia and Java in Southeast Asia.