An Aromatic Herb with a distinct Lemon Flavour
Although originally native to India, Thai Lemongrass is not only confined to Asia but it’s also widely utilized in many countries around the world and, until recently, this aromatic herb was little known outside Southeast Asia.
The scented grass can now be found in nearly every food market in the west. In reality, it has dramatically captured the imagination of chefs and novices alike. Lemongrass is a perennial tufted plant with a bulbous base and grows in dense clumps in tropical and subtropical regions of the east.
The scientific name for lemongrass is Cymbopogon Citratus but it is also known as Citronella, the common scent you usually find in candles, soaps and perfumes. The cut stems are about 8 inches in length and have similar appearances to that of scallions or thin leeks.
It’s only when the stems are cut that the distinctive citrus aroma is fully appreciated. This is matched by a pure and intense lemon flavour, but without the acidity associated with it.
Health Benefits of Thai Lemongrass
Thai Lemongrass has a whole host of herbal and therapeutic benefits and is a highly effective remedy for a diverse array of ailments. It not only serves as a natural and holistic approach to your health and well-being, but it is also fast becoming more and more popular in the treatment of the distresses, diseases and discomforts of modern society. You should, however, consult your doctor before replacing conventional western allopathic medicine.
1) It helps reduce fevers
2) It helps in treating gastroenteritis
3) It helps in treating flatulence and colic
4) It helps stimulate digestion and alleviate indigestion
5) It helps ease arthritic pain
6) It helps relieve insomnia
7) It helps relieve stress
8) It has anti-bacterial and antifungal properties
9) It is an effective diuretic when used as a tea
10) It helps stimulate blood circulation
11) It helps reduce blood pressure
12) It helps lactation in females
13) It acts as a muscle and tissue toner
14) It helps improve the skin by reducing acne and pimples
15) It helps detox the liver, pancreas, kidney, bladder and digestive tract
16) It helps cut down uric acid, cholesterol, excess fats and toxins
Culinary and Cooking Techniques
Thai Lemongrass is widely used throughout the country in soups, sauces, stir-fries, curries, salads, pickles and marinades. It is the perfect partner for coconut milk, especially when it comes to seafood and chicken dishes.
Thai cooks often add a few rings of lemongrass, grated or chopped fresh ginger root or galangal to a little vegetable oil when preparing stir-fries. Not only does it add extra flavour to the oil, but it also fills the air with an aromatic scent. Try this one when next preparing your Thai recipe at home.
There are basically two ways to use lemongrass. One is to first bruise the stem with a pestle or a small wooden mallet, then add it to a soup dish and cook slowly until all the flavour is released. Thereafter, it can be removed.
Another way is to cut off the lower two-inch tender portion of the stem and thinly sliced or finely chop it up before adding to soups, salads, curries, stir-fries or whatever takes you fancy. One stem will serve both purposes.
How to Select Fresh Lemongrass
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to fully understand all the various parts and uses of Thai lemongrass but when buying fresh ones, you should nevertheless be on the lookout for stalks that are still fragrant and tightly packed.
They should have a lemon-green colour on the lower bulbous end thereafter turning a true green colour towards the other end of the stalk. If fresh lemongrass is unobtainable at your local market, ask if there are any frozen ones as lemongrass freezes well and can be just as good.
The tough top end of the lemongrass stalk is usually used for background flavouring while the tender bottom portion forms the focal point of many a Thai dish. The upper end is also good for basting food which is to be boiled or barbequed.
Instead of discarding the dry fibrous end of the stalk, why not just turn it into a basting brush. To do this simply flatten the end with a pestle or small wooden mallet and Wallah!!! You have a marvellous brush.
How to make Lemongrass Tea
First cut two or three inches off the lower portion of the lemongrass stem and slice thinly. Place the slices in a jug of boiling water and allow to sit for approximately 5 or 6 minutes then strain. You need eight lemongrass stalks for one quart of water or one tablespoon of the plant for each cup of tea. Add milk and sugar if necessary.
For iced lemongrass tea allow the water to cool, refrigerate until cold, then serve with crushed ice. Cut the remaining stem pieces into six-inch lengths and add as a garnish.