Galangal shoots and stalks in Vietnamese cuisine
Galangal is the rhizome of Alpinia officinarum (and some relatives), a plant in the ginger family. It has a hot spicy taste and used as a spice in Vietnamese cuisine. Galangal is known as a spice that enhances the flavor of dishes and is also a valuable medicine, but few people know that galangal leaves, flowers, and fruits can all be used in cuisine. Especially, galangal sprouts and stalks are also used in cooking here. They are considered both as vegetable and spice.
Galangal sprouts or galangal shoots are the shoots of Aplinina plants, just like bamboo sprouts or bean sprouts. In northwestern Vietnam, galangal sprouts usually pop up all year round, but more often in early spring, midsummer and early autumn. Therefore, to collect galangal shoots, people just need to look at the old galangal stumps, then dig up the young shoots of pale pink and greasy shoots.
Galangal shoots may be used in many recipes, but because of its crunchiness, light sweetness and delicious taste, galangal shoots are most often used in salads. Culinarily speaking, delicious galangal shoots must be young ones without grown leaves, pointed tips, pinkish color, and each shoot is usually 20-25cm high. While harvesting the shoots, one should use his hands to peel off the hard outer shell of the shoot to get the young stalks inside. Then break the bamboo shoots into pieces, about 5-6cm long.
Galangal shoots may be paired with bauhinia blossoms, cassava leaves, hemp leaves, bamboo shoots, wild eggplants, papaya flowers, gac leaves… in salads. For example:
Galangal shoot salad with cassava leaves and wild eggplants: First, it is necessary to choose the stout young cassava buds with the fine powder at the top of the buds, pick them and soak them in water, then boil them thoroughly until the vegetables are soft. Then boil wild eggplants and galangal shoots for about 7 minutes, take them out to cool off, then mix in spices such as chili, garlic, soup powder, and noodles to complete the salad dish.
Galangal shoot salad with bauhinia blossoms and winged beans. Washed galangal shoots are boiled with bauhinia flowers (Bauhinia variegata) and winged beans for about 10 minutes. Then take out the ingredients to cool and drain, then add spices such as chili, garlic, pricklyash pepper, msg and granule seasonings.
In addition to vegan salads, it is impossible not to mention the most attractive “version” of galangal shoot salad with papaya flowers and pig ears. With papaya flowers, it is necessary to remove the long stalks, and use only each flower part. Wash then put in the pot to boil for 7-10 minutes, make sure the ingredients are soft enough and not mushy, but not too tough. With pig ears, they must also be boiled and then sliced thinly to quickly absorb the spices. The salad sauce contains lime or more preferrablely kumquat juice, some minced garlic and lemongrass stalks. Mix well and serve.
Like galangal rhizomes, galangal shoots can be used in Vietnamese braised fish dish. The shoot taste is less pungent than the rhizome. The basic ingreddients are fish, galangal shoots, caramel sticks or gel, and canarium fruits.
Galangal shoots may be also a stir-fry ingridient to pair with pork or water-buffalo meat. Stir-fry thinly sliced meat until it is nearly cooked, then add the galangal shoots. The dish will be ready in a few minutes.
In Vietnam’s central Highlands as well as some southern provinces, galangal stalks are harvested by peeling off the dark purple outer shells of a galangal clove. After removing the outer shells, the inner edible stalks are as big as chopsticks, 30-40 cm long, white in color. So, basically, the galangal stalks are quite similar to galangal shoots. Galangal shoots are somewhat younger and less spicy than galangal stalks. Galangal stalks are more like a spice than a vegetable.
There are many ways to prepare galangal stalks. A home cook may simply boil them in soy sauce, or use in sour soup. If there’s a party, one can prepare a chicken hot pot with galangal stalks.
Galangal stalks can also be sliced or minced and used as a marinade spice, or they can be hand-broken into 5-6cm pieces just like galangal shoots. The galangal stalks are often found in stir-fry dish with chicken, chicken eggs, water-buffalo, beef, goat meat, and even snake, squirrel or bird.