Fenugreek Seeds - Methi
Dried Fenugreek Leaves or Kasoori Methi
This may not be a really unusual spice. From the same plant as white sesame seeds but a different cultivar; Sesamum indicum nigrum. It is commonly used in Chinese cooking as well as Indian and other Southeast Asian cuisines. The black and white sesame seeds come from the same plant, but just a different variety. Black sesame seeds have a slightly stronger flavor than white. They are an extremely good source of calcium; studies have shown that one gram of seeds contains approximately 85 milligrams of calcium. If you like the flavor of white sesame seeds, these will not be so different. They make a lovely presentation when sprinkled over rice, and are often included in Indian dishes, or sprinkled on breads just like the white sesame we know.
Galangal grows in East and Southeast Asia, and also in the East Himalayas and South India. It is used in most of the Asian cultures and was once commonly found exported to Europe. As there are various kinds of galangal, some countries use one variety and other countries another. China uses a different type of galangal than Thailand, for example. The Polish use galangal to flavor vodka and the Russians still use it to flavor vinegar and some liqueurs. The oil produced from galangal is common in India. A common Southeast Asian use for galangal is making a paste with the root along with shallots, garlic and chiles. This paste is used to flavor seafood or meat curries.
If interested in planting galangal, and you live in a frost free climate, choose a well formed and fresh healthy rhizome, and plant it in well conditioned soil. Allow plenty of room, as once established, galangal gets quite large and grows to about 5 feet tall. The plant has long dark green, spear shaped leaves and white, pink or lavender sweetly scented flowers that strongly resemble irises. It can be grown as an ornamental plant. Once well established, to harvest the rhizome, uproot a section and cut it free.
Galangal root is of harder fiber than ginger and will require a sharp knife to cut. The inside is also much more creamy white than ginger. If using fresh galangal, find a young root, as they toughen with age. Pounding the root helps to release more of its flavors. Its strong flavors blend well with the use of coconut milk, such as in coconut based soups. If using fresh, uncooked root in a hot and sour salad for example, slice the root extremely thinly as it is intensely aromatic and pungent.
As fresh galangal is not available in many places, the alternative is the dried or powdered variety. Dried galangal has a muskier and rootier flavor than the sharp bite of the fresh root. Once ground, it loses flavor easily, as with most ground spices. It is used in some Indian dishes, and sometimes in the spice mixture called Ras el Hanout from East Africa.
Galangal is also used as an herbal medicine much like ginger, for stomach ailments, indigestion and stimulating the release of gastric juices to aid digestion. It is said to be antispasmodic and antibacterial and like ginger, to aid in seasickness.