I have yet to experience lesser galangale, but if the aroma is even more unpleasant than greater galangale it'll be an interesting experience. Mind you, asafoetida is an amazing spice...
Lesser galangale plants
Lesser galangale leaves and flower
Lesser galangale dried rhizomes
Lesser galangale is native to South India and is mainly cultivated in South-East Asia and China, in contrast to the closely related species kaempferia rotunda "greater galangale" that stems from South-East Asia and is widely cultivated across tropical Asia. As a spice, lesser galangale is nearly unknown outside of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. In Europe it is available in the Netherlands, due to the presence of a large Indonesian community.
Zingiberaceae (ginger family).
Strongly aromatic and medical.
The genus kaempferia is named after the German botanist Engelbert Kaempfer (1651–1716), whose most important achievement was Europe's first thorough description of Japanese flora. Kaempfer's name for the tree, ginkgo biloba, was based on the Chinese yin xing "silver apricot" or "silver almond", which in 17th century Japan was pronounced ginkyo.
Modern Japanese has two different names for ginkgo. Ginnan denotes the ginkgo seeds "ginkgo nuts" and is the modern variant of Kaempfer's form ginkyo derived from Chinese yin xing. The ginkgo tree, however, is named ichō in Japanese, which originates from another Ancient Chinese name of ginkgo, ya jiao "duck-foot" (due to the shape of the leaves). Confusingly, both Japanese names are written identically. In Korean, ginkgo is known as unhaeng, which is loaned from Chinese yin xing and thus cognate to Japanese ginnan. Modern Chinese uses an unrelated name bai guo "white fruit", which is also the source of the Vietnamese bach qua.
In contrast to the more popular greater galangale, lesser galangale is relatively unknown in the West and is used only in a few indigenous cuisines, mainly in Malaysia, Java and Bali. Its strong aroma is less pleasant than that of greater galangale, at least in high concentration or on first contact.
Slices of the dried rhizome may be cooked with vegetable or meat dishes, but the spice is normally used fresh and grated or crushed. Lesser galangale is essential for Javanese cooking (rijstafel) and appears in the characteristically spicy-sweet foods of that island. Lesser galangale often flavours the sauce sambal kacang made from ground peanuts, sweet soy sauce kecap manis, raw spices (chillies, garlic and lesser galangale) and tamarind water or lime juice. Sambal kacang is typically served to sate, grilled meat on tiny skewers, but also goes well with boiled or steamed vegetables.
Lesser galangale is much loved on the island of Bali, whose most famous dish Balinese roast duck bebek betulu partly owes its character to the spice. A whole duck is rubbed inside and outside with a paste (in Balinese jangkap, in Indonesian bumbu) made from onions, ginger, lemon grass, garlic, kemiri nuts, chillies, other spices and lesser galangale. After wrapping in banana leaves, the duck is steamed and then roasted in an oven which makes it extremely tender.
In other parts of Asia, lesser galangale is not known as a spice, although it is widely cultivated as a medicinal herb. It has some culinary usage in China, particularly in the cooking of Sichuan province. Unlike the usage in South-East Asia, lesser galangale is always used dried in Chinese cooking where cookbooks refer to it as "sand ginger", translated from Chinese sha jiang.
Fingerroot, another spice from the ginger family, is frequently confused with lesser galangale and has a similar taste. Its main use is for Thai fish curries.
The name lesser galangale is incorrectly applied to alpinia officinarum even more often than to kaempferia galanga. Alpinia officinarum is closely related to a. galanga (greater galangale) for which it is a suitable substitute.