Uses, Benefits, and Recipes
Lemongrass lends its citrus-like aroma and zing to many Thai dishes. It is also is used in herbal teas (tisanes) and has become a popular element in cocktails. You can find lemongrass in fresh, dried, or powdered forms
What Is Lemongrass?
Lemongrass is an herb with a lemony scent. The culinary herb is produced from the stalk of the lemongrass plant (Cymbopogon citratus). This plant grows in many tropical climates, most notably in Southeast Asia. It is a common ingredient in Thai cooking and can also be found in dishes from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India.
Fresh vs. Dried
Fresh lemongrass is preferred as it gives a better mix of bright and complex flavors. Dried lemongrass has more of a woodsy flavor. Stir-fries call for finely-diced fresh lemongrass as the dried form will simply dry out more. But dried lemongrass can be used in soups and other long-simmered dishes where it has time to rehydrate.
What Does It Taste Like?
Lemongrass imparts a flavor of lemon with hints of ginger. It has the same essential oil as lemons and it is often used in herbal teas to give a lemon flavor. Fresh lemongrass can have floral and minty notes as well.
Cooking With Lemongrass
To use fresh lemongrass in your cooking, always cut off the lower bulb and remove tough outer leaves. The main stalk (the yellow section) is what is used in Thai cooking. From here, you have two options. You can cut the yellow stalk into 2- to 3-inch lengths and then “bruise” these sections by bending them several times. In addition, create superficial cuts along these sections with your knife, which will help release the lemon flavor. Add these bruised stalks to your soup or curry. When serving, remove the lemongrass pieces, or ask your guests to set them aside as they eat.
If the lemongrass is intended to remain in the food when eaten, you can slice the yellow section of the lemongrass stalk into thin slices with a sharp knife. Then place these in a food processor and process well.
Dried lemongrass is added during cooking when the dish has enough fluid to allow it to rehydrate and release its flavor. It is often removed before the dish is eaten, or strained from beverages. Lemongrass powder can be added at any point in cooking.
Note that lemongrass is extremely fibrous and a little stringy (more like threads, actually). For this reason, be sure to cook your Thai dish thoroughly. If you are making a soup, for example, boil the lemongrass for at least five to 10 minutes in the broth in order for it to soften adequately.
Recipes With Lemongrass
Lemongrass is used in soup and dishes with meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables. It is also widely used in tea and other beverages.