This wonder herb is yet another showcase of nature’s ingenuity, with fragrance so pleasant that one would find irresistible. I also like to think of lemongrass as a plant of contrasting properties. It is a very humble ornamental value yet t is a vigorous plant under the right growing conditions, it is woody and rough and would inflict irritating paper cuts if handled without care, but adds nothing but gentleness to dishes, when treated properly by a cook.
Lemongrass is used abundantly in Thai cuisine, in its fresh herb form, especially as one of the key ingredients of curry pastes.
In addition to curry pastes, lemongrass is commonly used in staple dishes such as the popular ‘Tom Kha‘ a rich coconut and galangal soup and ‘Yum Takrai‘ a lemongrass salad.
Working with lemongrass is easy and the following preparation techniques are the more common ones that recipes would call for.
Fine slicing is used in recipes where the lemongrass stalk is expected to be directly chewed upon. Fine slicing is also a common practice before ponding lemongrass in mortar and pestle into pastes as a way of expediting the pounding process.
Wash the lemongrass stalks and peel off outer layers of the stalk that are too dirty to wash off or have imperfections. Lightly pound the stalk with the back of a heavy knife, a pestle or other heavy object. Place the stalk on a cutting board and chop off and discard the tough bottom part of the stalk (typically about an inch or 3 cm from the bottom). Now finely slice the stalk starting from the bottom white part and work your way up. Stop slicing when you hit tougher, woody or green parts.
Cutting into pieces is used when the pieces of lemongrass are added during the cooking process and essential oils are extracted to flavor and scent the dish, but the pieces are discarded and are not included in the serving of the dish.
Similarly to fine slicing, repare and clean the stalks and pound them lightly to enable an easier release of essential oils. Cut into pieces in diagonal to maximize the surface of the stalk’s cross section contact with liquids or other dish ingredients.