Tag Archives: Alpina Galanga

My Tropical Asian Treasure Trove – Part 1

It looks like some overgrown wasteland, neglected, in disarray … well, Ma Nature never created forest growth in straight rows. If they can grow in harmony as companions, and they have for over 3 years, why should I try to ‘straighten things out’ and spoil their habitat?

My shade loving Asian bed

It’s summer. Both plants and human beings in this household can feel the heat, which results in the planting and monitoring frenzy of spices, herbs and rhizomes I use in the kitchen. I try to grow as much as I can, to harvest and preserve (dry or freeze) as I know when the weather gets cooler, they die off or hibernate. They make way for their cool weather comrades.

You may ask “why not just get Asian stuff from an Asian grocery store?” Well, it’s over 35 miles to the closest well-stocked Asian produce store so it would be crazy frequently heading there just to get herbs & spices I need. More important, many of the items that I use, are not sold there … oh yes, not all Asian culinary spices are created equal.
(Click on the sub-titled links for more info & photos.)

Turmeric ~ a much-needed spice in my kitchen. It has grown in my backyard for over 3 years so it simply feels at home and will start re-growing in Spring but will show its leaves in Summer. I use these leaves in tea, curries and as wraps when roasting; and the roots in curries, pickles, sambal, etc.

Fresh green Turmeric leaves.

Galangal (Alpinia officinarum) 南姜 ~ which I simply call Lengkuas is another crucial item needed when preparing S.E. Asian dishes like those Mum taught me.

Galangal – just “normal” looking rhizome growth.

Can you get these in Chinese, Vietnamese or Filipino owned stores? No, but you might find it in Thai & Indian stores … frozen ones, yes but fresh ones, maybe.

Sand Ginger (Kaempferia galanga) or Cekur/沙姜 ~ the mysterious ornamental ginger which I began growing when a ginger-growing enthusiast sent me a rhizome.

Cekur, it makes a beautiful groundcover

Leaves and rhizomes are edible. Lovely as ground cover, even lovelier as an organic backyard grown food aroma enhancer. Can one find this in Asian stores in Florida? Unfortunately I have to say 99.9% it’s “No”. So I simply grow it!

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Galangal (Alpinia Galanga)

Galangal is known as Lengkuas in the Malay Lanugage and 南姜 in Chinese.

Everyone uses Galangal in Asia ~ Malays, Indians, Thais, Vietnamese… literally, everyone (in the kitchen). It is sold in every food market you go to, including air-conditioned supermarkets that sell wine, cheese & pâté at their deli corner. Coming to the US, I found it quite difficult to get fresh Galangal and buying 1 too many rhizomes is not practical, expensive and wasteful as it does not stay fresh for very long. Using the powdered version lacks its juice, fibre and “zing”. The wisest thing to do then, was to plant some. After trying out a few spots, I have found that they need semi-shade to do well.

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When harvesting some, I just need to gently feel for the rhizome end then break off a portion and allow the plant to grow as undisturbed as possible.  The pieces below will allow me to make 2 portions of curry for 4 & a jam-size bottle of pickles (Acar), combining with other herbs & spices of couse.

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