It’s hard to get excited about marketing if all you do is shop at the big American chain stores. If you hit the ethnic markets, though, you’ll find all sorts of new and unusual products to pique your interest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to 99 Ranch but with every visit I find something I haven’t seen before and this time it was sand ginger.
Sand ginger? Yes. They’re like little ginger nuggets, some of which are the size of a large clove of garlic. Technically, they’re "lesser galangale," a rhizome with a dark reddish brown skin that you peel just as you would ginger. Native to South India, sand ginger is actually cultivated primarily in Southeast Asia and China mostly as an ornamental or medicinal plant, but it is used as a spice in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Use it as a flavoring as you would more conventional ginger, although the flavor is more astringent than gingery.