Health and Wellness

Demystifying Lemongrass and Its Role in Cooking

3 Mins read

Demystifying Lemongrass and Its Role in Cooking

Lemongrass has a lush, botanical flavor that amplifies everything it touches. It brings a punch of brightness to meats, side dishes, and salads, and is likely the culprit behind why you can’t stop sipping on tom kha gai’s zippy broth. Lemongrass is anything but subtle, but there’s no reason to let its bold taste daunt you. Read on to learn everything you need to know about cooking with lemongrass, including where to buy it, how to prep it, and which dishes benefit most from its essence.

What Is Lemongrass?

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a fragrant, citrusy, grass-like herb native to maritime Southeast Asia, which includes Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore, but is grown in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.

What Does Lemongrass Taste Like?

Lemongrass has a distinctive flavor that’s described as a combination of citrusy lemon and refreshing mint, with a touch of ginger’s bite.

Where to Buy Lemongrass

Look for lemongrass in the herb section of your supermarket. Lemongrass can be sold in long stalks that you chop yourself, short stocks in a plastic container, or as a jarred or bottled paste.

How to Choose Lemongrass

Lemongrass stalks look like pale, thin green onions or scallions topped with long, green grassy leaves. Pick lemongrass with bright green leaves that don’t appear dried up. A firm texture and fragrant aroma indicates that lemongrass is in prime condition.

Which Parts of Lemongrass Are Edible?

Nearly every part of lemongrass can be used in cooking. However, because of it’s fibrous and stringy texture, only the bottom third of the stem, is edible. The upper stalks, which have a greener, more papery appearance, can be used to add flavor to broths and curries, but they aren’t edible.

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How to Cook With Lemongrass

Lemongrass is a key ingredient in Southeast Asian dishes, namely Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. Lemongrass helps soups, salads, and curries pop, and it’s also used to add a citrusy flavor to roasted meats. The outer leaves can also be dried and brewed into a tea, or chopped fresh and utilized in a cocktail.

How to Prepare Lemongrass for Cooking

101622809_cutting lemongrass

You’ll need to cut and finely grind or pulse lemongrass before you cook with it. Keep a cutting board, sharp, serrated knife, and mortar and pestle or food processor within reach.

  1. First, remove the tough outer leaves with your fingers to reveal the grass’ pale, fleshy stalk. Discard the leaves.
  2. Use your knife to remove the lower bulb. Cut about 2 inches from the bottom of the stalk and discard the roots.
  3. Starting from the lower end where you just removed the bulb, thinly slice the lemongrass until you reach the greener portion, about 1/3 the way up the stalk. Reserve the upper stalk for whenever you want to add flavor to soups and curries.
  4. Grind the chopped lower stalk with a mortar and pestle or pulse it in a food processor until it resembles a fine paste. The finer the sliced stalks, the easier they will be to eat.
  5. Use immediately or store in the fridge or freezer.

Lemongrass Substitutes

If you don’t have fresh lemongrass on hand, you can use certain herbs or fruits in its place. Lemon balm, lemon verbena, makrut lime leaves, or a mixture of ginger and cilantro can all be used to replicate the distinct flavor of lemongrass. Additionally, lemon or lime juice and zest can also be used in a pinch, but they won’t resemble the flavor as closely. Ground lemongrass powder can be used in place of fresh lemongrass stalks; use 1 teaspoon of lemongrass powder for every stalk called for in the recipe.

See also  2021 Food and Agriculture Benchmark

How to Store Lemongrass

Lemongrass takes well to storage in both the fridge and the freezer. It can be stored whole, cut, or ground into paste.

  • Tightly wrap uncut lemongrass stalks in plastic or aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
  • To freeze lemongrass, trim the green tops from the stalks, tightly the lower ends in plastic wrap, and seal in a zip-top bag. Store for up to 3 months and thaw before using.
  • You can also grind lemongrass down to a paste and freeze 1-tablespoon mounds on a plate or in an ice cube tray before transferring to a zip-top bag.

Lemongrass Recipes

Lemongrass lends itself well to savory dishes: think soups, grilled or barbecued meats, and salads. However, it can also add a punch of flavor to sweeter dishes and even beverages.





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