Eastern Asia or South-East Asia.
Fingerroot is native to Southern China and the countries of South-East Asia.
Zingiberaceae (ginger family).
Fingerroot has a strong, dominating flavour that is sometimes referred to as "medical". The rhizome "fingers" and its central, globular part actually have different odours, but this is not reflected in separate culinary use.
The genus name boesenbergia presumably refers to the botanist Boesenberg, although no details are known. The genus-name panduratus derives from Greek pandoura "fiddle", which in turn was named after the god Pan (reputed to play the instrument as well as the pipes), either referring to the supposed violin-shape of the leaves or comparing violin strings to the rhizome's tubers. The Indonesian name element kunci "key" also refers to the rhizome shape. The common English name "fingerroot" and derivative German name fingerwurz refer to the digit-shaped rhizomes.
"Fingerroot" is the most common English name for this South-East Asian spice, which has become well known in the West only in recent years. In China, fingerroot is used as a medicine rather than for cooking and it is a rare spice in the cuisines of Vietnam and Indonesia.
Only in Thai cooking does fingerroot play an important flavouring role. Although it is less often employed than related spices ginger and greater galangale, it is often used in curries (particularly fish curries) and is a common ingredient of vegetable stews or fish soups (together with kaffir lime leaves). It can be grated or, more rarely, used in the form of thin slices.
The dried rhizome has a somewhat stronger, more medical flavour and would not generally be used if the fresh rhizome is available. To use the dried spice it is first soaked in warm water and then ground into a paste.
In Western cookbooks, fingerroot is often confused with related rhizome spices, particularly the Indonesian spice lesser galangale, whose name kencur is often misapplied to fingerroot.
The botanical identity of this spice was previously cited as boesenbergia pandurata and, even if the two plants are genuinely distinct, they can probably be used interchangeably.