Ever wonder why you're so addicted to Thai soups and curries? There's a zingy, spicy, fragrant, herbal note in there you just can't put your finger on. Unless of course you've seen a slice of what looks like ginger floating around. It's not ginger, it's galangal, and while you might not care until the next craving hits, it's a secret ingredient you should get to know better.
Galangal, also known as Siamese ginger, is indeed a member of the ginger family known as Zingiberaceae (zingy!). Its skin is smoother and paler than ginger root's, the interior ranges from white to yellow to pink, and its flavor is stronger and more astringent.
To prepare it for soup or curry, peel off the skin and grate or mince it for a stir-fry. You can also add whole slices to your dish, but remove them before serving as the fibrous root itself is tough and inedible. Find galangal in fresh or powdered form at an Asian or well-stocked international food market for super-authentic tom kha gai — Thai chicken coconut soup — and if you can't, regular ginger will do in a pinch.
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