KRACHAI

Also Known As
ENGLISH:
Chinese Fingerroot
Chinese Ginger
Chinese Keys
Fingerroot
Lesser Galanga
Lesser Galangal [also refers to Alpinia officinarium]
Lesser Ginger
CAMBODIA: K-cheay (Khmer: ខ្ជាយ)
CHINA: Ao Chun Jiang
INDIA, ASSAM , METAI PEOPLE: Yai-macha.
INDIA, MANIPUR [HIMALAYAS]: Yai-macha
INDONESIA:
Temoo Kuntji
Temu Kunchi
Temu Kunci
SINHALESE: Harankaha (හරංකහ)
THAILAND:
Krachai [กระชาย]
Gkrachai
Kachai
VIETNAM: Bôngngatruật 
SYNONYMS
Boesenbergia cochinchinensis 
Boesenbergia pandurata 
Curcuma rotunda 
Gastrochilus panduratus 
Gastrochilus rotundus 
Kaempferia cochinchinensis 
Kaempferia ovata 
Kaempferia pandurata 
Laempferis pandurata 


Order:   Zingiberales
Family:   Zingiberaceae
Genus:    Bosenbergia
Species: rotunda

Florida n c s

Edible Parts
Leaf Shoots Root
Other Uses
Medicinal
The fleshy yellow rhizomes of this long-used Asian ginger species are strongly aromatic, with a very strong and spicy flavor that is pleasantly sharp. In the US, it is often found frozen or pickled in Asian groceries. In my opinion, it is far, far better used fresh from the garden. This spicy ingredient is usually added to savory dishes such as vegetable soups and curries. In Thai cooking, it is often an ingredient in fish curries. The rhizomes also make wonderful homemade pickles. It is most often seen used in Thai and Indonesian cooking, although you may see it used in Indian, Cambodian, Laotian, Malaysian, and Chinese dishes. The young leaves, stem hearts, and shoots may also be eaten. Medicinally, it has many uses in southeast Asia. I find this low-growing herb to be very easy to grow in a shady spot in the garden. 

EDIBLE ROOTS: The edible yellow rhizomes are strongly aromatic, especially when freshly harvested, and have a spicy flavor. The Thai Food and Travel blog writes, it has "its own distinctive piquant flavor and tangy fragrance that cannot be mistaken with other members of the ginger family to which it belongs." [18] Used throughout southeast Asia & China, Krachai is mainly cultivated in Thailand and Indonesia [especially Java]. It is commonly grown in small-scale, subsistence farming systems in Malaysia, Indochina, Cambodia & India.
As a strong, spicy flavoring in Asian cooking. The roots are used for the spicy flavor they give to savory dishes, including soups (often vegetable soup), stews, sambals, fish dishes and curries. Young rhizomes are cooked as a vegetable.  The rhizomes are also eaten raw (chopped into salads). Both the rhizomes & the hearts of the stems are eaten raw as a side dish with rice. 
- FRESH, AS OPPOSED TO PICKLED, DRIED, OR POWDERED: The Thai Food and Travel blog writes [and I strongly agree], "The frozen roots yield far better results [than the pickled ones sold in glass jars at many Asian groceries] that come closest to fresh and should be used whenever possible. I prefer to do without rather than use the dried or powdered forms." [18]
- CAUTION: Some Asian markets label these rhizomes as "Galangal," which is not correct. Galangal usually refers, properly, to Alpinia Galanga, the true Galangal [see my plant profile on this plant for comparison, if you like.]
- IN CAMBODIA: "It is used in some kroeung pastes of Cambodian cuisine." [5]
- IN THAILAND: It is well known in Thai cooking, where it is known as Krachai. There, they often pickle the roots.
- PREPARATION: Some folks scrape the skin off of the roots, while most that I know of simply wash them thoroughly.
- HARVEST: You can dig up the clump, break off the fingers for eating, and replant the main, stubby, top rhizome.
- STORAGE: The well cleaned, or scraped, roots may befrozen for future use in cooked dishes. [4]
EDIBLE YOUNG LEAVES, YOUNG SHOOTS AND STEM HEARTS: These parts are also eaten. Young leaves & shoots, along with the rhizomes, are cut finely, mixed with coconut and spices, wrapped in a banana leaf, and steamed.
MEDICINAL ROOTS:  They are used to reduce flatulence and to treat diarrhea, dysentery and worms. 
MEDICINAL LEAVES: In Thailand, the leaves are regarded as an antidote to certain poisons. 
EXTERNAL USES: Crushed rhizomes & roots are applied to treat rheumatism. 

Recipes

SIMPLE: “Young leaves and shoots, usually along with the rhizome, are cut finely, mixed with coconut and spices, then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed.” - Cornucopia
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PICKLED: “It’s really lovely pickled in vinegar and then added to salads.” [3]
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BRINE-PICKLED KRACHAI FROM EDIBLY ASIAN:
http://ediblyasian.info/recipes/brine-pickled-finger-root-pickled-krachai-
"Brine pickling is very straight forward. It's simply a process of submerging the rhizome in a brine solution. There is no need to enhance the brine with spices as the flavour is quite definite and the root isn't used as a single ingredient for eating.
INGREDIENTS
Salt, 1½ Tbsp
Hot water, 500 ml (2 cups)
Finger-root.
DIRECTIONS
Add the salt in the hot water and when dissolved then make up the final volume to 1 litre.
Wash the Finger-root very well. There's no need to peel this but separate the fingers from the body if you prefer.
Place the Finger-root into a litre mason (~1 qt) or jar and pour the pickling brine into the jar with enough to immerse the finger-root completely.
Weight the tops of the rhizome so that it is all below the liquid level.
Cover the top of the jar with clean cheesecloth and secure this with a rubber band.
Allow to steep and pickle for a week minimum at room temperature 20ºC( ~70F). If keeping the finger-root in the jar, then replace the cloth cover with a solid cap and make sure that the root is completely submerged to prevent mold growth. 
STORAGE
Store in a pantry or refrigerated." 
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IN SEAFOOD DISHES: The Thai Food and Travel blog writes: "Because its exuberant, aromatic quality freshens the taste of seafood, it is used primarily in seafood dishes. The fingers are cut into fine slivers and tossed along with other fragrant herbs into hot-and-spicy seafood stir-fries, curries and incendiary soups." [18]
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IN SAMBALS: Fresh, chopped Krachai rhizomes are added to sambals in Asia.
“Sambal is sauce typically made from a variety of chili peppers and secondary ingredients such as shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, sugar, lime juice, and rice vinegar or other vinegars.
Various recipes of sambals usually are served as hot and spicy condiments for dishes such as: 
Ikanbakar (grilled fish)
Ikangoreng (fried fish)
Ayamgoreng (fried chicken)
Soto.  
Sambal is a Malay loan-word of Javanese origin (sambel).” 

NATIVE TO: "Cambodia; China (Yunnan), Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, and Thailand." [7]  IUCN writes, "its precise natural range is uncertain." [7] Now wild in Southern Yunnan Province, southern China, and Malaysia. 
HABITAT: It grows wild in dense forests. 
DESCRIPTION: An herbaceous, almost stemless perennial, 12-30 inches tall.  Some sources list it as an evergreen, but mine always dies down each winter here in central Florida.
- FLOWERS: Slightly fragrant, pink, tubular, appear at ground level. Pretty, usually hidden by the large, upright leaves.
- LEAVES: Usually 3-4 ovate-oblong leaves, up to 5 inches wide. 
- RHIZOMES: Yellow, finger-shaped rhizomes, strongly aromatic when harvested.  The Thai Food and Travel blog writes, "This root is comprised of a cluster of long, slender, orangish brown fingers joined to an insignificant, knobby ginger-like rhizome." [18]
CULTURE: Ornamental.
- HARDINESS: Ecocrop writes: "new growth can be severely damaged at" -1C [10F], "mature plants can be killed" at -10C [10F]. [13] Expert grower David Skinner, of Gingers R Us Nursery, writes, "I have been growing it for many years in my Tallahassee zone 8-B garden with no problems at all. It goes dormant naturally like Curcumas and Kaempferias, and the rhizomes can be lifted in winter if you are in a colder area." [6]
- LIGHT: Best in partial shade. Ecocrop writes that it can be grown in full sun "in moist soil." [13]
- SOIL: It requires well-drained soil. It prefers rich, moist soil. Ecocrop writes: "Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 5.5 - 7.5." [13]
- DORMANCY: Goes dormant during the winter.
- PROPAGATION: By division.
- GROUNDCOVER: David Skinner, of Gingers R Us Nursery near Tallahassee writes, "As an ornamental, it is not spectacular, but it does increase well and makes an attractive groundcover for shady areas." [6]
- NOTE: Cold, wet weather may rot the rhizomes. It does not set seed that comes true.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Sometimes confused with Lesser Galangal, Alpinia officinarum.  

More Details

Flower Color
Violet
Bearing Age
1 years

Habitat
Shaded Spots
Native?
Non-Native


Plant Form
Herbaceous Deciduous Perennial Herb
Height
2 feet
Width
2 feet
Root type
Rhizome
Root size
6 inches
Rate of Growth
Moderate


Hardiness Zone
7a to 11b
Root Hardiness
10°F
Damaging Temp.
30°F
Ease of growth
Easy
Light
Shade Part Sun
Soil
Sandy Rich Well-Drained
pH
6.0 - 7.0
Spacing
2 feet
Watering
Moist



Sources for acquiring

Bamboo Grove 
Gingers R Us 
Tropilab, Inc. 


References

[1] globalfoodbook.com 
[2] Randy’s Tropicals 
[3] Byron Herbs 
[4] Jeff Heriot 
[5] Wikipedia 
[6] Gingers R Us Nursery 
[7] iucnredlist.org 
[8] Useful Tropical Plants 
[9] Plant Resources of Southeast Asia 
[10] Flora of China 
[11] Plant Resources of Southeast Asia 
[12] Mansfeld'sDatabase of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants 
[13] Ecocrop 
[14] Cornucopia 
[15] Tropical Food Gardens 
[16] Dictionary of Economic Plants 
[17] The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening, 1992 
[18] Thai Food and Travel blog 
[19]  thaicookbook.tv 
[20] ediblyasian.info 
Last Updated: September 14, 2018

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