Cooking With Lemongrass: The Do’s And Don’ts

Lemongrass is an herb from Southeast Asia and that grows in tropical climates. As the name indicates, it has a strong lemony flavor that is often used to complement Thai and Vietnamese dishes, but the flavor is versatile enough to work in European dishes as well. While citrus fruits can be used as substitutes, they cannot perfectly replicate its flavor and aroma. If you would like to use lemongrass in your dishes, keep the following dos and don’ts in mind.

Do follow the correct method when preparing lemongrass.

The correct method involves first blanching the lemongrass to make it less bitter. Lemongrass is a pungent herb with the potential add bitter notes to a dish and blanching can help to prevent that. After placing the lemongrass into boiling water for about a minute, remove it and place into ice water to cool it down. Once it is cooled, start trimming off the tops of the lemongrass along with the ends. This is important because most of the flavor is contained in the five inches of stalk above the base. After this, you will peel away the outer layers and crush lemongrass stalks with a knife blade as you would cloves of garlic. Crushing allows more of the herb’s essential oils to be released. After crushing, you can place the lemongrass into the dish for later removal or finely chop it.

Do remove larger lemongrass pieces from your food.

This is necessary for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because the outer layers of lemongrass stalks can be fibrous and difficult to chew. The second reason to remove lemongrass is that it is one of those herbs that will keep releasing flavor over the duration of the cooking time, which means that you do not have to worry about its flavor dissipating in braised dishes; however, because it can stand up to long cooking times, lemongrass can easily overpower the other flavors in a dish. Remove it after it has added the desired amount of flavor to your food.

Do leave lemongrass in your dish only if you have very fresh lemongrass stalks.

You can peel off the outer layers and chop the tender inner ones finely instead of removing them. If you use the tender inner layers of the stalks, use a smaller amount since you will be leaving the lemongrass in the dish.

Do store lemongrass correctly,

Lemongrass is a hardy herb that can last in the refrigerator for up to two weeks if wrapped in plastic. Alternatively, you can freeze it for as long as six months.

Do purchase prepared lemongrass, if possible.

To avoid the hassle of preparing it yourself, buy lemongrass that has already been chopped or ground. Many grocery stores offer lemongrass paste that is sold in tubes; you can simply squeeze out the amount that you need and store the rest in the refrigerator. You may also be able to find chopped and frozen lemongrass in some Asian food markets.

Do use lemongrass to complement seafood. Like citrus juice, the flavor of lemongrass is great for neutralizing the fishy flavor that some people find objectionable.

Don’t buy lemongrass stalks that feel light or rubbery.

Instead, look for heavy stalks with a firm texture. Stalks that are light or rubbery are older stalks, which will not provide the flavor you’re expecting.

Don’t eat uncooked lemongrass.

Not only does its texture make it difficult to eat, lemongrass works by infusing its flavors into the dish. Cooking is important for the infusion.