The root of the plant (technically the “rhizome”) is used as flavouring in cooking. The rhizome will grow 3 inches (7 1/2 cm) long, and maybe 3/4 inch (2 cm) wide.
The rhizome has reddish-brown skin, and orangish, fibrous flesh inside.
The flavour is stronger than ginger or greater galangal: it is like a peppery, hot version of ginger, with a bit of a medicinal after-taste.
It is sold powdered or in dried, round slices.
Lesser Galangal is used as a spice in Indonesian cooking.
The Chinese treat Lesser Galangal as a herbal medicine, and may occasionally add a slice to a soup for medicinal purposes.
Lesser Galangal is native to the south-east coast of China. It was being used in Europe in the Middle Ages, brought in by trade from the Far East.
Lesser Galangal’s scientific name almost makes it seem like it’s a plant that grows in the Swiss meadows. In fact, the “alpinia” comes from its being named in 1870 in honour of “Prosper Alpinus”, an Italian botanist (23 November 23 1553 – 6 February 1617.)