The rhizomes are used in various Asian cuisines (for example in Thai and Laotom yum and tom kha gai soups, Vietnamese Huế cuisine (tré) and throughout Indonesian cuisine, for example, in soto). Galangal is related to and resembles ginger, and has a similar flavor but is much more potent.
In its raw form, galangals have a stronger taste than common ginger. They are available as a whole rhizome, cut or powdered. The whole fresh rhizome is very hard, and slicing it requires a sharp knife. A mixture of galangal and lime juice is used as a tonic in parts of Southeast Asia. In the Indonesian language, the greater galangal and lesser galangal are both called lengkuas or laos, while Kaempferia galanga is known as kencur. It is also known as galanggal, and somewhat confusingly galingale, which is also the name for several plants of the unrelated Cyperusgenus of sedges (also with aromatic rhizomes). In Thai language, greater galangal is called "ข่า" (kha) or "ข่าใหญ่" (kha yai), while lesser galangal is called "ข่าตาแดง" (kha ta daeng). In Vietnamese, greater galangal is called riềng nếp and lesser galangal is called riềng thuốc.
The word galangal, or its variant galanga, can refer in common usage to four plant species all in the Zingiberaceae (ginger family):
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