If you enjoy cooking Southeast Asian or Asian food in general, I’m sure you’ve come across the term, galangal, a root that looks pretty much like ginger, but is not. I’ve actually seen supermarkets use the term interchangeably, which is why I decided to do more investigation into the differences between the two. For sure, if it’s a new flavor, it will help all of you when you need to cook with it for the first time.

Let’s go to taste and smell first. All the other technical stuff I’ll address later.

Taste and Smell

__Galangal:__Smells like strong menthol, Vick’s Vapor Rub and pine. The taste of galangal is accompanied with a strong kick of menthol and pine. There is a slight bitterness and then a cool pepperiness. The spice lingers on a tongue for a short while and then dissapates.

__Ginger: Smells a lot more mellow than galangal. Ginger has a light, sweet, spiciness to it. In terms of taste, ginger starts off mellow and sweet, and is then followed by a mild pepperiness. The taste is not nearly as strong as galangal.

Other comparisons

  • Galangal is more expensive than ginger
  • In terms of appearance, galangal has a much darker, brown-amber skin. It also has nubs along the skin.
  • The skin and flesh of galangal is a lot harder and tough than ginger. In order to peel it, you have to use a knife or a possibly vegetable peeler.
  • Both are “rhizomes” - meaning they are clusters of a root.
  • Both are used in Asian cuisine, with galangal being more prevalent in Southeast Asian cuisine.