This month’s ingredient: Lemongrass
Aliases: Fever grass, camel’s hay, geranium grass, Cochin grass, sereh (powder form)
What is it?
Lemongrass is a tropical, perennial green grass that can reach up to 1.5 metres and grows from woody, edible, pale green-yellow stalks comprised of tightly packed layered leaves. Fresh lemongrass stalks should feel firm and heavy, with no bruising or browning. Flimsy, light, dry stalks are likely to be less fresh and have less flavour.
A unique, citrusy flavour that has a warm floral note.
Where do you find it?
Most supermarkets stock fresh lemongrass in their refrigerated vegetable sections. Only the bottom of lemongrass stalks are sold; the leaves and upper stalks are removed beforehand. Lemongrass keeps in the fridge for up to three weeks, or you can store it in your freezer for months.
In Southeast Asian cooking, especially Thai, Viatnamese and Sri Lankan cuisine.
Essential oil from lemon grass is often used:
- as a mosquito repellent
- to fragrance perfumes, soaps, candles and detergents
- as a facial astringent and skin toner
- in aromatherapy to revitalize the body and help relieve stress
- in massage therapy as a muscle toner
Lemongrass has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties and is said to combat:
- cold and flu symptoms
- indigestion, abdominal pain and other stomach conditions
- fungal conditions, for example athlete’s foot
- improve blood circulation
In a recent study, the essential oil has been shown to lower high cholesterol.
Try it in town
Lemongrass is one of the key ingredients in the Thai favourite, tom yum soup, where its refreshing tang balances the spiciness and contributes to the soup’s medicinal properties.
35 Hollywood Road, Central
Upmarket Thai restaurant where it’s quality over quantity
Deep Water Bay Beach
One of our favourite al fresco dining spots on the beach at Deep Water Bay
Cook with it at home
The whole stalk (bashed first to release the aromatic oils) can be used to flavour curries and soups or be infused in the water when cooking rice. Remember to remove it before serving.
For salads, marinades or stir-fries, use only the tender, bottom section of the stalk which is less woody – you may need to peel off a couple of the dry outer layers first, then finely slice or pound the rest with a mortar and pestle.
- Steep a bashed stalk in a bottle of vodka for at least five days to add an exotic note to cocktails or vodka and soda.
- The woody stalks make attractive, flavourful skewers for grilling prawns or chicken.
Soak a couple of bruised stalks in your bath for a revitalising aromatherapy treat.