111 - The Root Cause of Flavour

By Mary Luz Mejia

Published: August 9, 2006 

Galanga, the fiery rhizome related to ginger, goes by a lot of names.

You may have heard it called "galangal," "Laos root," "Thai ginger" or "Siamese ginger." In Thai, it's known simply as kah, and is as common in local cooking as traditional ginger is in Chinese kitchens.

It is often sold frozen from overseas, but Vientiane Supermarket in North York carries it fresh whenever possible. Used to flavour soups, fish, red meats, salads and curries, galanga imparts a spicy freshness to food that helps lighten even the heaviest of dishes. The smaller, more tender roots are prized for their delicate flavours and easy-to-slice texture (the older ones can get woody and difficult to cut).

Finely slivered for seafood salads and soups, and pounded into a paste for curries and marinades, galanga is often that mystery ingredient that gives numerous meals thir exotic "x-factor."

Apart from the flavour component, Thai people enjoy the root for its medicinal properties. Like other cultures that use roots or plants to better their health, Thai people choose galanga to help settle upset stomachs, ease nausea and curb flatulence.

Doctors prescribe a simple beverage of galanga, tamarind water and salt as a blood purifier to women who have just given birth --and as a natural laxative. It's also known to aid in the reduction of numbness and cramping, in healing bruises and swelling as well as removing toxins from the body. Now if we could only get malt vinegar and Dijon mustard to do the same!

Vientiane Supermarket
2 Bradstock Rd.
North York, Ontario
(416) 743-2911