If you’ve ever had any Asian or Indian dishes, chances are you have enjoyed a lemony flavor that did not come from fresh lemons, nor from lemon rind.
Western chefs also enjoy the citrusy flavor in many of their recipes. As a popular Asian herb, lemongrass helps give certain dishes a distinct lemony smell and taste. Lemongrass is part of the scented grass family. It is a perennial plant that grows from 3 to 6 feet tall and just as wide in thick clumps.
You may be wondering what lemongrass tastes like, in reality. Well, this is what we’re going to find out today, including how to use it in your cooking.
What does lemongrass taste like ?
Lemongrass has a distinct citrus note, paired with a herbal, slightly earthy note. The white part is the one with the most flavor, and the more you cook it, the more intense the flavor.
In a way lemongrass may remind you of ginger, without the spiciness.
Lemongrass tastes a little different from lemon rind, in that it’s more of a light, fresh flavor and a little bit ‘watery’.
Where can I buy lemongrass ?
Lemongrass is not hard to find, but you may have to look in specific areas for it. It looks like scallions or green onions with stalks that are green and brown.
Due to its herbal popularity, lemongrass can be found in Asian inspired stores and in many local supermarket produce shelves. Again, it looks like scallions and is also bundled in stalks of two or three. However, it features a different coloring and scent than scallions.
You can find lemongrass stalks in your grocery store’s freezer section. Those will usually be already cut up into smaller pieces, or large chunks.
Lemongrass is also sold in bags or glass containers in a flavorful dried form. As a dried spice, it can be purchased in slices or in powdered form. There are also bottles of lemongrass as an oil-based extract.
Keep in mind that no matter what form of lemongrass you get, it’s a very potent flavor. Use it sparingly, and remove the stalks after cooking.
You can grow your own lemongrass
If you enjoy growing plants, then rewarding yourself with your own herbal plant is just for you. This way whenever you need fresh lemongrass, it’s right there. And keeping in mind how little you need at a time, growing your own will really keep you for a long time.
You can buy lemongrass seeds and grow it in your backyard or in your indoor garden. Lemongrass is easy to grow, all it needs is humidity and regular watering for the first few weeks.
Simply plant the seeds into the top soil. Make sure it can receive lots of light and in a few weeks, you will see it rooting and growing. Lemongrass also promulgates itself giving you lots of stalks whenever you need its lemony flavor.
Keep in mind that when lemongrass grows, it grows very large and takes up a lot of space. You only need the roots, the green hanging leaves won’t help you with much.
Make sure wherever you plant it, you have room. It can easily become an invasive species if you’re not careful.
What part of lemongrass is edible ?
In cooking, you can use the white part of lemongrass. The aromatic scent and its lemony taste is derived mainly from the lemongrass fleshy roots. As for the leaves, remember that you must remove the outer leaves.
The outer leaves are there to protect the inner portion used for consumption. When you remove the outer leaves, throw them away. What is left is a pale-yellowish stalk that is soft and is the part that is used for cooking.
Professional cooks smash the lemongrass portion to release its lemony essence. You can also cut the bottom part into slices. Keep in mind that we are not talking about the bulbous ends of lemongrass which you will cut off and discard.
A little bit of green is fine, just know that the more green it is, the drier it is and the tougher it becomes. Lemongrass is very fibrous anyway. so make sure to cut it very finely if you want to eat it.
If you simply want to flavor a dish or dessert, cut it into large pieces, or smash it as you would a clove of garlic.
Can I Eat Lemongrass Raw?
Yes, you can eat lemongrass raw after you have removed the outer leaves. Even then, the soft inner stalk of the lemongrass is stringy and tough to chew, like sugar cane.
There are several delicious Thai salads using shrimp and chicken that calls for finely chopped lemongrass sprinkled throughout.
Once you reach the edible inner stem, then chop it real fine and add it to your salad. What you must know, is that eating lemongrass raw will bring a pop of citrus that will surprise you every time.
When using any part of the lemongrass, it should be cooked and sliced up finely. When used in cooking, this flavorful herb grass helps to make any dish tastier without diminishing the flavors of your other spices or ingredients.
How to use lemongrass
Lemongrass can be used in nearly all types of dishes. Depending on your recipe, lemongrass may first need to marinate for several hours. This is usually done to soften the fibers, as it can be too tough sometimes.
Also, lemongrass is so highly favored by cooks around the world that when a recipe calls for a fresh lemon, lemongrass makes the perfect substitute.
You can use lemongrass in:
- Vegetable dishes
- Barbecue recipes
- Baked and grilled dishes
- Stir-fried recipes
- Desserts i.e., fillings and fruit desserts in lieu of fresh lemons
- Drinks like teas, lemonade, cocktails
- Curries and more
In whatever recipes you prepare using lemongrass, be mindful that when you cook it over a period of time, its flavor only gets stronger.
When lemongrass is used in most recipes (like soup) then you want its flavor to remain light. This means that the lemongrass must be added toward the end of the cooking time.
True Asian cooks tie 2 or 3 stalks of lemongrass together when they make their soups or stews. They take the wrapped lemongrass stalks and add them to the cooking food, and remove them when it’s done.
Why use lemongrass instead of fresh lemons?
Yes, fresh lemons give a lot of flavor to many dishes that require a zingy citrus taste. Lemongrass however gives you a light lemony flavor without the citrus acidity.
Another important point is that you can only get the lemon flavor out of lemon rind. This implies lemon oil, which may be too strong for some people.
Lemongrass offers a different kind of lemon flavor, a lighter one.
And finally, while it’s easy to remove a lemongrass stalk, it’s not as easy to remove lemon rind from food or desserts.
If you’ve got any other food curiosities be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.