Galangal

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NZ Lifestyle Block - - Plants With A Purpose -

Galangal is a sub­trop­i­cal plant and likes lots of warmth, full sun, and a very rich soil, high in or­ganic mat­ter. Treat it rather like sweet corn: high ni­tro­gen, fre­quent liq­uid feeds with sea­weed or worm wee, and reg­u­lar and deep wa­ter­ing through­out the grow­ing sea­son (but not in win­ter).

Galangal can read­ily be grown in frost­free ar­eas, where it is usu­ally ev­er­green. How­ever, it is hardier than gin­ger so it can be grown in frosty ar­eas if it gets pro­tec­tion from win­ter frost and you give it as much warmth as pos­si­ble.

Here in the South Is­land, just north of Christchurch, my plant dies back over win­ter. I treat it the same as my mukrat (kaf­fir) lime, grow­ing in it a large pot and bring­ing it in­doors when it’s cold. I keep it quite dry over win­ter as the rhi­zomes are prone to rot­ting when not ac­tively grow­ing. Ex­tra win­ter drainage such as stones in the base of the pot will help.

Galangal works well as a con­ser­va­tory or green­house plant. It has few pests other than the usual green­house op­por­tunists such as aphid and mealy bug.

A fresh rhi­zome, placed in a dark place for a few weeks, will grow a bud. Plant the rhi­zome just be­low the soil level and keep warm and moist. In a few weeks shoots and roots will grow and the galangal will be away.

I was de­lighted to re­ceive a greater galangal plant as a gift. I di­vided it so I could ro­tate har­vest be­tween two plants and di­vide at dif­fer­ent times.

Har­vest­ing rhi­zomes is not dif­fi­cult. You only need a lit­tle at a time and fresh is best, plus it’s very sat­is­fy­ing: sim­ply dig into the loose pot­ting mix and snap a piece off the out­side of the clump. Wash and trim away any rot­ten, bruised or woody parts. Slice or grate as your recipe re­quires, and enjoy the pun­gent, inim­itable, richly resinous aroma. It will put your Asian cook­ing in a class of its own.

A re­li­able source of galangal is Rus­sell Fran­sham’s sub­trop­i­cal nurs­ery: www.sub­trop­i­cal.co.nz

METHOD De-seed and soak the chill­ies in 100ml of wa­ter for 15-30 min­utes; five chill­ies is mild, 10 is for the more ad­ven­tur­ous. Add all the spice mix in­gre­di­ents to a bowl, in­clud­ing the wa­ter from soak­ing the chill­ies, and grind into a paste. Fry the spice mix in oil on medium heat un­til it thick­ens and dark­ens slightly but do not burn the spices. Add the co­conut milk, salt, sugar, fish sauce and chicken and sim­mer for 15-20 min­utes, un­til the chicken is cooked. Stir in the co­conut cream to thicken. Blanch the rice ver­mi­celli and bean sprouts. To serve, put the blanched rice ver­mi­celli in a bowl topped with bean sprouts, chicken, half a hard-boiled egg and some juli­enned cu­cum­ber. Pour over the sauce and sprin­kle with Viet­namese mint.

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