[Sca-cooks] Horchata - Barley Water - galingale

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Tue May 22 19:45:37 PDT 2007

On May 22, 2007, at 9:26 PM, Suey wrote:

> Adamantius wrote that I said:
>>> At that point used only the word chufa in my replies to avoid
>>> . . .
>> Occasionally we've had occasion here to mention an alternate usage  
>> for "galingale", we dance around a bit, Stefan asks if this is  
>> Alpina  Officinalis, we say no, it's just a plant known in some  
>> folk herbal traditions as galingale, it's related to sedge, etc.,  
>> etc.
> Lovey,
>     Stefan knows as well as I ginger is substituted for galingale when
> not available but there is no real substitute for it. No way Cyperus
> esculentis, chufa, has nothing to do with galingale.  There are two
> types of galingale,  Alpinia galangal, is also called Laos ginger,
> Siamese ginger and Thai ginger and Lesser galangale, Kaempheria  
> galanga,
> that is smaller galingale and has an reddish-orangey flesh outside and
> almost white inside.
>     Stefan must be bluffing you! He is a great tease!

My experience has been that he has a particular genius for  
identifying the flaw in an argument. After knowing him for many  
years, I still can't be certain if he asks some of the questions he  
asks because he really doesn't know the answers, or if he is gently  
trying to expose the fact that there may still be someone left on the  
planet who might not grasp an explanation in its current form,  
whatever that is.

>> It appears that what you're calling "chufa" is known in England,
>> France, and elsewhere, under an assortment of names, but  
>> "earthnut" has never been one of the ones I've heard used. I  
>> believe I, and perhaps some others, thought it sounded  
>> sufficiently similar to "groundnut", which is another name for  
>> what we call peanuts, to ask for a little clarification. BTW, as I  
>> recall, there's a lovely photo of a plate of cooked  
>> "galingale" (which in this case is probably Cyperus esculentis and  
>> not Alpina officinalis) in any of several editions of the Larousse  
>> Gastronomique.
> Look I believe Font Quer called chufa an earthnut but can't get to the
> National Library right now to confirm whether he or Usher stated this.

I am not challenging this claim. I just didn't know what an earthnut  
was, and wondered if perhaps you meant groundnut.

> I
> think Font first published in 1888 when few were bilingual or  
> trilingual
> in Spain but those who were very good. Today names of fish translated
> from Spanish to English for example are totally unreliable at times.

Hmmm. I'm not sure I immediately accept the idea that they're totally  
unreliable. Are they simply different names, or are you saying that  
you frequently see sources in English showing a photo or a  
taxonomical name for a fish, which they then mis-identify using the  
wrong name in Spanish?

Fish are hard to identify at times. Some aren't found in two  
different places, but have near-equivalents with the same name, which  
can lead to confusion. Then there are traditional fisherman's names  
for fish, their zoological/taxonomical names, and marketing terms,  
all of which can be different, or sometimes confusingly and  
inappropriately similar. For example, in the eastern USA, "ling" or  
"hake" or "pollack" all being sold as "scrod". "Scrod" isn't the name  
of a fish; it's what you call a skinless fillet from a ling, a small  
cod, a hake or a pollack. Then there's the Pacific black cod (which  
is a completely different fish from Atlantic cod) being smoked and  
sold as sable, or sold fresh and raw under the names "Chilean  
Seabass" (it is not by any stretch a seabass, and while it may exist  
in Chilean waters, it is not exclusively so) or "Arctic Bass" (again,  
it is neither).

> Give Font or Usher a break if this is mistake. Font above all  is much
> more reliable than today's fishy authors so far.

I mostly use A.J. McClane for fish info, as well as some old  
pamphlets from the US Fisheries Service and the US Coast Guard. But  
I'm also a lot more interested in fish than most people. For  
vegetables, I don't really have a definitive resource.

>     Mind you this is part of my thing to confirm technicalities in
> translation and I appreciate ever so much you challenging my info and
> correcting me or them when due.
>     I have no idea what BTW

By The Way.

> is or I remember a plate of 'galingale'; in
> Larousse Gastronomique of chufa incorrectly labeled as you indicate.
> Interesting.

I've heard sedge referred to as galingale before. There seems to be  
no confusion with Alpina officinalis/galingal, and my sense is that  
it's an over-simplification to claim that this is a case of incorrect  
labelling. It's merely that there are people who aren't you or me  
calling this plant galingale; I could as easily say that "chufa"  is  
incorrect. Instead, I merely say that it is outside of my experience.

>     Thanks to all your queries I have found that the chufa did make  
> its
> way into Mexico at least. France and England obviously knew about
> chufas.

Yes, but they don't use that name. Instead, they use names like  
"souchet", "sedge", and "galingale". Or, possibly, "earthnuts". Who  
can say with any authority that they are wrong to do so?

> They could have tried to grow them if and when the area is not
> subject to frost during the planting season and where sandy soil et  
> al.
> was available. In England at least we have many attempts at importing
> Spanish or Mediterranean plants such as saffron, almonds etc and in
> spite of their odds they were successful on a limited basis as the
> Berkeley family records relate for example.

Yes, and there's a town in England called Saffron Waldon, if I  
remember correctly, about which it is claimed that there were  
attempts to raise saffron crocuses locally as a cash crop in, I  
believe, the 15th century.

Here's what the Larousse Gastronomique (which has been known to make  
errors, mostly in assuming that what applies to France is the  
Universal and Empirical Truth Everywhere) has to say about chufa:

"GALINGALE [souchet]

"A perennial Mediterranean plant producing scaly brown tubers the  
size of hazelnuts, the sweet white farinaceous pulp of which earned  
them the French name of amandes de terre (earth almonds). They may be  
eaten dry, raw, or roasted like chestnuts.

"In North Africa, the tubers are generally ground and used in  
forcemeats  for poultry, meatballs, and spice mixtures.

"In Spain, the galingale is called chufa; grown in the Valencia  
region, it is used for making a popular drink, horchata, which is  
similar to orgeat. It also yields an oil, which has a lower freezing  
point than water and does not turn rancid, and a flour used in  

They also have an entirely different entry under "galangal" which  
deals with the aromatic Asian rhizome used as a spice.


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