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Galangal is a root used extensively as a spice across south east Asia, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia. It looks similar to ginger but does not taste similar; its taste is variously described as soapy or like a natural toothpaste with suggestions of lemon and pine leaves in its smell. It does not smell appetising when it is uncooked but it is delicious once cooked. It should be used sparingly as it can overpower a dish; one slice is equivalent to one teaspoon of dried galangal.

Galangal is usually sold with its skin still on (like ginger, to preserve its freshness) although in markets across Asia you will find it peeled and sliced for the time-pressurised cook. You can also buy it in powder form but this is less satisfactory as it loses its pungency very quickly after opening.

Galangal is mainly used in seafood recipes with other spices such as chilli and tamarind. It mixes particularly well with lime juice.

The spice is also reputed to be an aphrodisiac and is used in China as a method to cure halitosis. It is also used in Chinese medicine.

In Indonesia it is known as laos, in Malay it is called lengkuas and in Cantonese it is called lam keong.