(Alpinia officinarum) There are
numerous plants belonging to the same botanical family that have been
called lesser galangal. It is easy to be misled because common names are
practically interchangeable. No great harm will be done by using one
rhizome instead of the other since none of them are noxious. However,
the flavor will be different. Among the plants that are sometimes
mistaken for lesser galangal are Kaempferia galanga and
Lesser galangal was used in Europe in
mediaeval times, and mentioned in the writings of Arabic physicians
Rhazes and Avicenna.l It was first recorded by Ibn Khurdadbah in 869,
who listed it as an article of trade from the Far East. It was commonly
used as a culinary spice together with cloves, nutmeg and ginger, but
the plant itself was not described until 1870, when it was named for
True lesser galangal is native to the island
of Hainan, and the south-eastern coast of China. It is not a culinary
spice, but used in Chinese medicine.
Purchasing and storing : The Chinese
name for lesser galangal is san bai. It is sold at Chinese herbal shops,
mainly in the form of small round slices of the dried rhizome. It will
last almost indefinitely if kept airtight.
Preparation : Simmered in the
cleansing, toning and healing soups which are part of the traditional
Chinese kitchen, a soup to serve 4-6 people could include 1 tablespoon
of dried lesser galangal slices..