Everything You Needed to Know About Cooking with Lemongrass

While lemongrass isn’t a flavour most Indian households grew up eating, it’s something that we’ve become exposed to as a result of eating Thai cuisine. Even though it has a subtle flavour, its citrusy, herbaceous notes are perfect to liven up the flavours of any dish it’s put into, and really can’t be replicated or substituted with anything else. 

What is Lemongrass?

A herb with a flavour that is reminiscent of lemon, ginger, and mildly floral, lemongrass’ origins stretch all the way across South and Southeast Asia, from India and Sri Lanka to Indonesia and the Philippines. It grows in bushy clumps, like a grass, as its name suggests. It has woody and pale green stalks, with long, green leaves. 

Where can I find lemongrass?

Lemongrass can easily be grown at home, because it thrives in tropical climates. All you need to do is plant a stalk or two in a large pot, place it somewhere where it gets indirect sunlight, and water it every day. 

Lemongrass stalks are easily available on delivery platforms and at grocery stores. We recommend buying a few extra ones than you need in your cooking, and plant the extra ones at home.

When you buy lemongrass, make sure to find stalks that are light green, with tops that are plump and green, not thin and woody. If they are yellow or brown and very hard, it’s a sign they’re old and have been sitting outside for too long.

You can also get dried lemongrass, but it has more of a woody flavour than the fresh, citrusy flavour of fresh lemongrass. Stir-fries, teas, and cocktails are best made with fresh lemongrass, but soups, stews, and dishes simmered for a long time can make do with dried lemongrass.

How do I store lemongrass?

Wrap lemongrass in a towel and store it in the fridge; it will stay for a few weeks. You can also peel the outer layer and mince it finely, and then store it in the freezer for months. 

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If you have dry or powdered lemongrass, store it in a sealed, airtight container in a cool and dry place.

How do I use lemongrass?

Start by peeling off the first outer layer, and you’ll find slightly softer underlayers. Place it horizontally, and slice off the bottom part, about half an inch from the root. The pale lower section of lemongrass is where you’ll get most of the flavour. Slice it thinly (remember to be careful and use a sharp knife, since the stalk is quite hard and you can cut yourself if you get clumsy with the knife), and then pound it into a fine paste or make a paste using your food processor. This paste should be used to make your basic spice paste for sauces, gravies, marinades, and curries. 

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Don’t throw away the lemongrass leaves, since there is plenty of flavour there as well. Wash the leaves well, crush them lightly in your hands to release their oils, and put them in a saucepan filled with water and simmer for 10-12 minutes. It will impart a lemongrass flavour to the water, which you can then use to make tea, cocktails, and summer coolers. 

You can add leaves or a lightly pounded lemongrass stalk to any kind of clear alcohol to impart a light flavour. Let it sit in gin or vodka for about a week and you’ll get a lemongrass-infused alcohol that will be amazing.

Recipes

Lemongrass Coconut Curry

Lemongrass Rice

Lemongrass Tea