Galangal vs ginger

galangal root photo

So today I’m going to talk about galangal which is an herb that is an absolute staple in any Thai home. Now I use this quite often but a lot of people seem to be confused by it. They have a lot of questions about it. So hopefully today we’re going to tackle all of that.

Galangal is the part that we use for cooking and is actually just the rhizome of the whole plant. The plant can grow really tall and we grow tons of it at my home in Thailand. A rhizome is actually a type of stem that grows underground from the roots. Looking closely you can see little dots which are the places where the roots used to be. When they harvest the plant they cut off all the roots and then they leave the pink tops on the rest of the plant where Galangal is known for its aroma. It has no taste, it’s not sweet, it’s not sour, it’s not salty, but it has a wonderful cooling aroma that reminds me very much of a pine forest.

Absolutely love it. You can call this slightly medicinal. I mean it’s like putting Vicks on your face and it’s refreshing… that’s kind of what it reminds me of. So you can use galangal in three major ways and the first way is to slice it up into thin rounds.

You then throw the thin slices into a soup or a broth and let it infuse. But in its fresh form it’s very hard. You can’t eat it. I recommend treating it like a cinnamon stick and letting it infuse for a few minutes then discarding it. Now if you want to eat it you can. But you have to chop it down pretty fine such as mincing it if you want to. You can throw it into salads add it into dips and whatnot.

Now what’s commonly done is to actually pound this into a paste such as a curry paste or put it in a sausage mix or put it in a stir fry or whatever and for that you just use a mortar and pestle.

So, it’s very versatile.

Some people like to say that oh we just use ginger. And I’m telling you people, just because they look kind of the same does not make them a substitute for one another. OK. I always say that sure go ahead and put ginger in it but just be prepared like you’re getting a very different flavor.

Ginger has a hot spice and it’s a different kind of aroma. So I don’t consider it a substitute. You’re basically just swapping it with a new ingredient. Right. However, if you can’t find fresh galangal there are other forms of it available.

TIP:

Frozen galangal is probably your best bet because I find that with a frozen form it really retains a lot of its original characteristic.

There’s also galangal paste which sounds like it would be useful because in this form it just kind of mixes well into a lot of things.

And then there’s dried which will work well in soups. It’s gonna be harder if you need to pound it into a paste because dry galangal is super hard. I find that it does develop a bit of a different flavor once it’s dried.

Ginger beer versus ginger ale

ginger beer photo

So what we’re going to be doing today is we’re actually going to be talking about the differences between ginger ale and ginger beer.

Historically, a ginger ale was mean, much like soda. Kind of like the soda that we made not too long ago where you use yeast to add the carbonation. But ginger beer, on the other hand, was fermented just like beer. Just like the name. And so that would result in a little bit less carbonation. It was traditionally a little bit less sweet and it was also traditionally alcoholic, up to 11 percent.

I think yum. That sounds delicious. Nowadays, you don’t really see that. Ginger beer is usually kept under a half a percent of alcohol because that’s what the FDA in the US requires for it to be classified as a non alcoholic beverage.

And one of the benefits of that is they can get distributed nationwide and without any restrictions on, you know, where they can sell their product. So there’s a lot of advantages for getting underneath that 0.5 percent. Now, one of the things that we’ve explained in the past was a traditional style of ginger beer. It’s not 11 percent, but it was about 4.5 percent.

So, yeah. It was really tasty and it tasted exactly like ginger beer to me. But it was alcoholic. Yep!

So, you know, if you’re mixing with it, just be careful. You may have to adjust your recipe slightly. The biggest thing that most of you that have been behind a bar have a lot of experiences between ginger beer and ginger ale. You know that nowadays ginger ale tends to be a lot sweeter, a lot mellower on the spicy notes of the ginger, whereas the ginger beer is the exact opposite, a lot drier. It has a lot more of that ginger flavor and it just makes its presence known a lot more in cocktails.

There are some out there that aren’t sweet at all. There’s a wide spectrum on the sweetness of ginger beer. There definitely can be for sure.

TIP:

Ginger beer is nice for folks who don’t like things that are terribly sweet.

Does ginger ale help an upset stomach?

stomach-ache-photo

Does ginger ale really help with stomach aches? Not for me right now. I just drank a lot of ginger ale.

There are a few things going on here that can affect your stomach, the combination of carbonation and ginger. Whether or not any of these help is actually still being debated in the medical world. So I’m going to talk about that today. Let’s get started.

Experts don’t totally agree on whether carbonation in soda helps with a stomach ache. Some claim that the air bubbles from soda in a stomach might make a person feel better. But according to the Mayo Clinic, carbonation can lead to our old friends bloating and gas. So it’s possible to make your stomach issue worse by drinking soda. In a 2008 review of medical literature about whether soda alleviates a stomach ache, found no scientific evidence that it can. They also looked at the possibility that it would be rehydrating for a sick person to drink coke, Ginger ale or soda.

But they determined that it wouldn’t be, according to the researchers, quote, “carbonated drinks flat or otherwise, including cola, provide inadequate fluid and electrolyte replacement and cannot be recommended.”

So Ginger, on the other hand, has a reputation for being good for digestion. But there are some conflicting studies on whether it actually is. One 2011 study examined seven hundred and forty four cancer patients who were receiving chemotherapy, which typically makes people nauseous. Some were given a placebo and three others were given varying amounts of ginger. The study was randomized and double blind, meaning neither the experimenters nor the patients knew which groups people belonged to.

According to the results, quote, “all doses of ginger significantly reduced acute nausea severity compared to placebo. On day one of chemotherapy, the largest reduction in nausea intensity occurred with point five grams and one gram of ginger.” Additionally, there have been studies that show that ginger can help with nausea during pregnancy, motion sickness and post-surgery.

That sounds promising, but the writers of the study I described earlier did note that their results conflicted with a very similar study in 2009. It was also randomized, double blind and placebo controlled. The researchers examined one hundred and sixty two cancer patients and found that Ginger did not help alleviate chemotherapy induced nausea.

So at last, we can finally definitively say it’s hard to say if it helped in the past. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have some ginger ale if you’re feeling sick, since Ginger has been shown to help with stomach issues in some cases.

TIP:

Try to find ginger ale with ginger root in the ingredients.