The galangal root, photo by Thomas Wanhoff
I bought a jar of minced galangal from the Keells (Narahenpita/Nawala) for like Rs. 200, don’t remember. What on earth is galangal and what to do with it? That was my question. Apparently it’s a ginger type root, used in Indonesian cooking. In paste form it doesn’t taste nearly as strong as ginger, tastes kinda, uh, grainy? Pink? I don’t know how to describe the taste. In application it’s a subtle savory, kinda nice. Didn’t even need to use MSG.
This is a modified recipe from BBC food. The original is Amy’s spicy chicken. It’s modified to fit what I had in the house. Turned out pretty OK. The main thing I like about this recipe is that it’s very light on the salt. I go very heavy on the salt and MSG to keep the family happy taste wise, but it’s not great health-wise. In this you don’t add the salt till the very end but it still works out well.
First the sauce
- Green chili (like two or three)
- Red chili flakes (apply liberally)
- Green onions (that’s what shallots are, right? Like four)
- Garlic (two cloves)
- Galangal paste (tablespoon)
- Lemongrass paste (a bit)
- Vegetable oil
So, I don’t have a food processor. It’s what I want for Christmas. I got a mosquito death racket which was cool but next Christmas I want a food processor. Instead, I put everything in a mortar and pestle and mash. Mash mash mash. It turns into a greeny paste. That’s the sauce. I put a bit of salt in but I think that’s cheating.
Then the chicken
I had four chicken thighs. The recipe say not to do anything to them. Normally I douse in spices, marinate, read children’s books to. This time I just fried them in oil till golden brown, which was for a while. Medium heat.
Then I stopped the heat and spooned the paste on, turning the pieces over (as I did throughout the recipe). Cook it for like 2 minutes like that. Recipe says two but I was doing some stuff on email and it ended up being like three or four.
I then poured like 200 ml of water in and squeezed half of this lemon/lime hybrid they sell here. I forget what it’s called. It’s not limoncello. The recipe calls for sugar but I find this perverse. Sugar is for dessert.
I then simmered the whole thing for like 20 minutes. The recipe says 30-40 but I find that a lot. In the end the chicken was soft and well seasoned. Only at that point did I sprinkle with salt.
Served with baby tomato/green onion salad and green beans quickly fried in mustard seeds and paste.
So it turned out OK. Bit too much oil but a lot less salt than usual and a lot more flavor. So, how does the galangal work out? Honestly I could only identify after I wasn’t hungry and was just tasting for taste. It’s not a strong taste like ginger, it’s just a subtle savory. It’s actually quite good. Imparts flavor without being Flavor Flav.