Lemongrass is an herb in the citronella family that has a strong citrus flavor profile and a coarse, fibrous texture. It is a versatile herb once you understand how to use its flavors. Note that lemongrass is one of those herbs that you will need to understand to be able to use it effectively; however, it is not as intimidating as it might seem at first. Consider some of the many lemongrass applications below.
Citrus flavor notes are widely known to enhance seafood. For example, lemon and lime go well with fish and shrimp. Lemongrass provides much of the flavor of sour citrus fruits without the acidity. Use lemongrass to stuff a whole fish, or as one of the ingredients in a shrimp stir-fry. Lemongrass complements other shellfish like mussels.
You can use lemongrass to make a paste — it contains a considerable amount of moisture so that it will take on a paste consistency without the need for you to add liquid. Your best option is to use a mortar and pestle. Alternatively, you can buy pre-ground lemongrass paste that might come in a tube or can.
In Southeast Asian food
Along with galangal, lemongrass is one of the staple ingredients in Thai cuisine. You will see lemongrass used in curries and a variety of stir-fried dishes. It plays crucial roles in the flavor profiles of several popular Thai dishes like tom yum soup and satays. Lemongrass stalks are sometimes used as skewers for satays.
Lemongrass pairs well with coconut milk, ginger and other common ingredients from this part of the world. It also works well in a curry if you grind it to a paste. When you are adding lemongrass to a curry, use the paste form of it. Lemongrass is popular in Malaysia where it is used in laksa, which a kind of noodle soup that can have a coconut or a tamarind base. You will see it used in Vietnamese dishes like bun bo hue (a beef noodle soup) and ga xao sa ot (spicy lemongrass chicken).
Lemongrass works in raw preparations as well. Use it to give your salads a pleasant citrus fragrance. Its fibrousness makes it difficult to chew so you should use it in paste form — possibly in your dressing — or use a very sharp knife to slice it thinly and sprinkle on those thin slices very sparingly.
Lemon is an excellent flavor for poultry used in both Eastern and Western cooking styles, and you can get a similar effect when you use lemongrass. For example, you can stuff a chicken for roasting with chopped or ground lemongrass. You can use lemongrass paste in a marinade for chicken that you plan to grill.
Lemongrass is more than just a culinary herb, it works in drinks as well. You can use it to replace the flavor of lemons or limes in some cocktails. You can muddle it the way you might muddle mint or other herbs. Even without muddling, you can use lemongrass to flavor your drink by making the stalks into straws or stir sticks.
Lemongrass is also a great tea herb. Bruise the stalks with the handle of a knife then slice them before steeping in hot water to make a flavorful infusion. Lemongrass is as good a partner for ginger in a tea as it is in a stir fry or Thai curry.