(Madagascar lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus)
Lemongrass is remarkably versatile.
Lemongrass, or Lemon Grass, can be used fresh, dried or powdered. It is used to complement pork, beef, fish, poultry and seafood dishes.
Lemongrass offers lots of iron (30% of recommended daily requirements), no fat, no cholesterol, hardly any sodium, low carbohydrate making it a sensible additive to a variety of tasty dishes.
Select lemongrass by looking for a firm stalk with leaves that appear fresh. If leaves are dried out, there won’t be much flavor.
This is a very pungent herb and is normally used in small amounts after having been thoroughly bruised.
The entire stalk of the grass can be used. The grass blade can be finely sliced and added to soups, and later removed. The stalk is very tough and should only be added to tea bags, bouquet garni, or potpourri. You can use a food processor or coffee grinder to reduce the size of stalks and save your fingers from cuts.
The bulb can be bruised and minced for use in a variety of recipes. Use the tender white inner hearts.
Lemon grass makes a lovely garnish for decorative purposes but you do not want to eat it. Use it like Bay leaf– remove it from the food before serving.
The herb is frequently used in curries as well as in seafood soups and is also used to make tea.
Most people know lemongrass for the flavor it adds to Thai food. It is the refreshing citrus nip that balances the hot chili and creamy coconut milk in the ubiquitous Tom Kha Gai soup.
Lemongrass originated in India, and then traveled onto Southeast Asia, becoming a staple ingredient in the cuisines of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. More recently Lemongrass crossed the oceans to the Caribbean, where its lemony taste balances zesty island flavors.
The light lemon flavor of this grass blends well with garlic, chilies, and cilantro.
Health Benefits of Lemongrass:
– Aids digestion
– Eases anxiety, stress and cramps
– Acts as a natural antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic
– Reduces fever and flatulence
– Repels mosquitoes
– Can be used as a facial astringent
- One small trimmed stalk = 1 Tablespoon dried
- Powdered lemon grass is found under the name “Sereh powder” and a teaspoon is = 1 small stalk.
- Zest of 1 lemon = 2 small lemon grass stalks
How to Shop for Lemongrass
Lemon grass is readily available in Asian and Mexican ethnic food markets. Select fresh looking stalks that don’t look dry or brittle. Store fresh lemon grass in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed plastic bag for up to 3 weeks. You can also freeze it for about 6 months without any flavor loss.
In addition to fresh, lemon grass may be purchased dried or powdered. The dried product has to be soaked in hot water and reconstituted before use. The powdered variety is useful in teas and curries but it’s not a good substitute for the fresh product. For best results in recipes use the fresh herb.
Lemon Grass Beef w/chili Bo Xao Xa Ot (Compliments of Doug)
2-3 pounds beef (or chicken)
4 cloves garlic
1 large yellow or white onion
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minced lemon grass
1 teaspoon ground chilies (to taste)
4 tablespoon fish sauce (Nuoc Mam)
2-3 spring (green) onion stalks
2-3 tablespoons coarsely ground peanuts
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoons honey
- Cut beef into small pieces (either “nuggets” or small strips).
- Peel garlic and slice finely.
- Cut onion into 1/2 inch strips.
- Peel off the hard outer layers of lemon grass stalk and discard.
- Peel off the medium layers of lemon grass stalk for stewing purposes.
- Mince the soft inner layers of the stalk.
- Heat oil in large frying pan over medium heat.
- Add salt, garlic and onion.
- Fry over medium heat until onion becomes opaque.
- Add lemon grass and chili.
- Fry 1 – 2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add beef and cook until lightly browned.
- Mix in fish sauce, sugar and honey.
- Cook until beef is the way you like it.
- Stir occasionally and add water if necessary.
- Remove the layers of lemon grass stalk before serving.
Serve over white rice. Garnish with peanuts and thin slices of spring onion stalk.
Tips and Tricks:
- Make with a Vietnamese chili-garlic sauce Tuong Ot Toi Viet Nam.
- Substitute Vietnamese chili-garlic sauce it in the recipe instead of the garlic and pepper.
- Use the bruised stalk.
- How to bruise the stalk: Take a stalk of Lemongrass and remove the tip of the root end with a sharp knife, cut a piece two inches up from the cut end giving yourself a two inch long section, peel off the dried outer layer from the section and crush that lightly with a mortar and pestle to release the oils.