Lemongrass in Asian Cuisine: Cooking With This Staple Ingredient
Many people know lemongrass as a lovely herbal tea, but did you know that this fragrant plant has more applications than that? Lemongrass is actually a common ingredient found in various Asian cuisines.
It has a pleasant, citrus taste with subtle hints of mint, but its real strength lies in that zingy lemony fragrance that enhances almost any dish and takes it to a whole new level.
So let’s talk about this fantastic Asian ingredient. Learning how to cook with it will take your cooking to new heights of flavor and deliciousness. With that said, here’s a guide to everything you need to know about lemongrass and how to cook this staple ingredient in Asian cuisine.
What Is Lemongrass?
Lemongrass is a tropical variety of grass that is thought to be native to India, but has since been spread to other parts of the world and grows in the tropical regions of Asia, America, and Africa.
It’s a perennial plant that can grow to be about one meter high. It has thick blades of grass that each come out of a white bulb and stalk at the base of the plant. The leaves are used to make a fragrant tea, and the stalk is used for cooking in all sorts of different ways, from stir-frying to pickling.
Lemongrass oil is also a very common use of the plant. This oil can be found in soap, perfume, makeup, and cleaning products. It can even serve as a non-toxic insect repellent!
What Does Lemongrass Taste Like?
Lemongrass tastes pretty similar to what you would expect it to taste like. It has a bright citrusy flavor that is enhanced by subtle minty undertones. It got its name from its lemony flavor.
Lemongrass is also very good for you. It’s high in vitamin A, and it has been commonly used in herbal medicine for centuries.
How Should Fresh Lemongrass Be Prepared?
Fresh lemongrass is absolutely delicious, and the smell is incredible. Prepping it will fill your kitchen with a bright, lemony smell that you’ll love. In fact, lemongrass is not that difficult to prepare.
Take Off Any Tough, Outer Leaves
First, you need to remove any of the outer leaves that have been toughened up by nature. These leaves have a little less flavor and a bit of an unpleasant texture, so it’s best to take them off completely.
Because you’re removing the outer leaves, you don’t really need to wash it, which is very convenient.
Remove the Bulb
Next, you remove the bulb. It has a tough texture and roots that don’t taste good, so remove the bulb and about an inch on top of that.
Slice or Chop
Now that you have a nice, clean, white stalk, you’re ready to start cutting. You can slice your lemongrass lengthwise into strips to work into your stir fry. Or you can chop it sideways and put it in a marinade. There are so many different applications for this superior herb.
Store the Upper Stalk
After you’ve cut and used the base of the stalk, you can keep the upper stalk for later use. You can wrap it in a damp paper towel, and it should stay good in the fridge for about a week.
What Dishes Can I Use Lemongrass In?
Lemongrass can be used in a variety of Asian dishes with its bright taste and can broaden the flavor profile of so many dishes.
Add Flavor to Soups and Stews
Lemongrass is commonly used in different soups and stews. It pairs great cilantro in a nice chicken noodle dish to brighten up your warm soup. The leaves can be added to light dishes, like pho alongside bean sprouts and carrots to keep the soup light and filling.
Add some lemongrass to miso soup. The lemony flavor is fantastic with the rich miso and light tofu for a lovely vegan meal. Or, if you’re making a nice rich stew, add a lemongrass leaf and let your stew simmer for a few hours.
Lemongrass is also commonly used to make massaman curry, Panang curry, and green curry. Combined with subtly sweet coconut milk and a combination of flavorful spices, you can have a bright, spicy, creamy green curry with lemongrass as a major star of the show.
Use as a Stir-Fry Add-In
The stalk of the lemongrass plant can also be added as a vegetable in stir-fry dishes. Paired with a rich stir-fry sauce, lemongrass can add a brighter aspect to the flavor of the dish, giving a nice broad spectrum of flavors into your stir-fry.
Lemongrass works great with spicy dishes, so add some lemongrass and garlic chili oil to give your dish an upbeat punch.
If you like teriyaki, lemongrass works as a great additive to sweet teriyaki sauce for teriyaki chicken or spicy teriyaki sauce for spicy beef teriyaki. Or, if rice dishes are more your thing, lemongrass can brighten up a variety of fried rice dishes.
Thai spicy fried rice with a host of fresh vegetables can lighten up a normally heavy dish.
Toss With Noodles
Lemongrass is commonly served with various noodle dishes. One of the more popular lemongrass meals out there is spicy lemongrass noodles, which pairs it with chili oil and garlic.
But stir-frying isn’t the only application for cooking with them. Lemongrass goes great in egg rolls or spring rolls. You can also toss chopped lemongrass or whole leaves into a salad to bring a bright citrus flavor to your salad without getting it soggy with lemon juice.
Use as a Garnish
Lemongrass also works super well as a beautiful garnish. It looks similar to green onions, but adds a layer of aromatics that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Not to mention, it’s strong enough that, even as a garnish, lemongrass can add a delicate lemon flavor to the finish of a dish.
Add Flavor to Chicken
It’s also great to add flavor to meats like chicken, or even beef and pork. The most common way to do this is with a nice marinade. Combine ginger, brown sugar, lemongrass, basil, garlic, fish sauce, and sweet soy sauce.
Then let your chicken breast marinate in the mixture for a few hours and you’ll have a brilliant, rich, and bright chicken that you’ll love.
One of the more common uses for lemongrass, especially outside of Asia, is lemongrass tea. The medicinal qualities of this delicious herb are on full display here. The bright lemony flavor can help boost your mood when you need a little pick-me-up to brighten your day.
The Bottom Line
Lemongrass is one of those ingredients you can put into any meal and achieve a delicious result. The bright, lemony taste helps to enhance the flavors of nearly any dish, from yellow curry to yakisoba noodles to vermicelli rice noodles. So, get some lemongrass today, put it in your next stir fry, and see what else you can do with this powerful, aromatic ingredient for a new dining experience.
If you’re on the hunt for lemongrass or any other hard-to-find Asian ingredients, head on over to Umamicart. We deliver quality groceries straight to your home so you can cook fantastic Asian meals with ease!