Galangal is a spice used heavily in Thai food and that belongs to the same family as ginger. Like ginger, galangal can be used in its dry and fresh forms. Dried galangal and fresh galangal share some qualities but also have very different properties. We will compare them in the SPICEography Showdown below.
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How does dried galangal differ from fresh?
Dried galangal’s flavor is different from that of fresh galangal. The difference in flavor between the dried and fresh rhizome is similar to the difference between dried and fresh ginger. Dried galangal lacks the intensity and complexity of the fresh spice. The dried rhizome is not as sharply flavored, and the flavor is dominated by citrus notes. Fresh galangal’s strong pine and pepper notes are muted in the dried spice.
Dried galangal must also be prepared differently from fresh. Soak dried galangal in water before use, since it will be very woody and difficult to chop or grate. While fresh galangal is often fibrous, it can be peeled and used immediately without soaking.
Dried galangal and fresh galangal have different shelf lives. Dried galangal can last for years in your spice cabinet at room temperature. Fresh galangal can go bad relatively quickly, so you should refrigerate it. Fresh galangal can last for up to three weeks in the crisper drawer of a refrigerator.
If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?
In general, experts recommend that you use fresh galangal for any recipe that requires galangal. If using fresh galangal is not possible, dried galangal can make a decent substitute. Because dried galangal has so much less flavor than the fresh version, it is strongly recommended that you use more of it. Start by using double the amount of dried galangal that your recipe requires for fresh galangal.
Even though dried galangal will do a decent job of replacing the fresh rhizome, you will still be changing the flavor dramatically. To use dried galangal in place of fresh galangal in a curry paste, you will first have to soak it. Soak the galangal in warm water for about 30 minutes until it is soft and flexible.
You can use fresh galangal in place of dried galangal by simply drying it. Making your own dried galangal will give you the same flavor as the fresh rhizome. If you need a quicker substitute, you can simply add fresh galangal slices to your dish or pound it out to a paste with a mortar and pestle. When replacing dried galangal, note that the fresh version will be more intense, so you will need to use less of it. Replace dried galangal with about half the amount of fresh galangal.
When should you use dried galangal, and when should you use fresh?
The best way to use dried galangal is in liquids like soups and sauces, where the dried galangal’s flavor can infuse into the dish. Use dried galangal to make your own curry paste if you don’t have access to fresh galangal. You can also use dried galangal in Thai soups like tom yum soup, where it contributes to a somewhat authentic flavor profile.
Fresh galangal should be your first choice when making any dish that calls for galangal. Use it to make tom yum soup, massaman curry paste and classic Thai dishes like khanom jeen, where the flavor profile depends on fresh galangal’s bright citrus and pine notes.