Alpinia galanga, a plant in the ginger family, is an herb used in cooking in Southeast Asia. It is one of four plants known as galangal and is differentiated from the others with the common name lengkuas, greater galangal, or blue ginger.
The name "galangal" is probably derived from Persian qulanjan or Arabic khalanjan, which in turn may be an adaptation of Chinese gao liang jiang. Its names in India is derived from the same root, including kulanja in Sanskrit, kulanjan in Hindi, and kholinjan in Urdu.
The name "lengkuas", on the other hand, is derived from Malay lengkuas, which is derived from Proto-Western Malayo-Polynesian *laŋkuas, with cognates including Ilokano langkuás; Tagalog, Bikol, Kapampangan, Visayan, and Manobo langkáuas or langkáwas; Aklanon eangkawás; Kadazan Dusun hongkuas; Ida'an lengkuas; Ngaju Dayak langkuas; and Iban engkuas. Some of the names have become generalized and are also applied to other species of Alpinia as well as for Curcuma zedoaria.
Alpinia galanga is also called laos Javanese and laja in Sundanese. Other names include romdeng (រំដេង) in Cambodia; pa de kaw (ပတဲကော) in Myanmar; kha in Thailand; nankyo in Japan; and hong dou kou in Mandarin Chinese.
History of domestication
Lengkuas is native to Southeast Asia. Its original center of cultivation during the spice trade was Java, and today it is still cultivated extensively in Island Southeast Asia, most notably in the Greater Sunda Islands and the Philippines. Its cultivation has also spread into Mainland Southeast Asia, most notably Thailand. Lengkuas is also the source of the leaves used to make nanel among the Kavalan people of Taiwan, a rolled leaf instrument used as a traditional children's toy common among Austronesian cultures.
The plant grows from rhizomes in clumps of stiff stalks up to 2 m in height with abundant long leaves that bear red fruit. It is the galangal used most often in cookery. It is valued for its use in food and for traditional medicine and is regarded as being superior to ginger. The rhizome has a pungent smell reminiscent of black pepper and pine needles. The red and white cultivars are often used differently, with the red cultivars being primarily medicinal, and the white cultivars being primarily a spice. The red fruit is used in traditional Chinese medicine and has a flavor similar to cardamom.
The rhizome is a common ingredient in Thai curries and soups, where it is used fresh in chunks or cut into thin slices, mashed and mixed into curry paste. Indonesian rendang is usually spiced with galangal.
Under the names 'chewing John', 'little John to chew', and 'court case root', it is used in African American folk medicine and hoodoo folk magic. Ayurveda considers A. galanga (Sanskrit:-rasna) as a Vata Shamana drug. Known as பேரரத்தை (perarathai) in Tamil, this form of ginger is used with licorice root, called in Tamil athi-mathuram (Glycyrrhiza glabra) as folk medicine for colds and sore throats.
The rhizome has been shown to have weak antimalarial activity in mice.
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- Greater galangal
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