Cooking with Lemongrass

To prepare lemongrass for flavoring, pound the dried stalks lightly to release their volatile oils, then cut strips to fit the cooking vessel. For eating, use only the palest central core (wrap and save the outer layers for later use). Slice thin, then mince with a heavy knife or in a small blender, making tiny particles, as the grass is very woody.

For Western cooking, think of using lemongrass the way you would fresh ginger—in more or less the same dishes and quantities. Or consider the following suggestions:

FISH: Pound whole stalks, then insert in the cavity of whole fish before grilling, steaming, or baking. Place fish steaks or filets on pounded stalks when steaming.

POULTRY: Place several whole, lightly pounded stalks in the cavity of a chicken or other fowl before roasting or grilling.

SALADS: Toss minced lemongrass core in vegetable, seafood, poultry, rice, or pasta salads. Dress with citrus vinaigrette and ginger.

SAVORY SAUCES: Prepare simple cream, egg, and wine sauces with lemongrass stalks—it won't curdle them as lemon juice might.

SEASONING PASTE: Puree chopped lemongrass core with other aromatics—fresh herbs, spices, onions, garlic, shallots—and a little cream or oil, then spread on poultry, meat, or seafood before cooking.

STIR-FRIES: Toss a generous handful of finely minced lemongrass core into vegetable, meat, poultry, and seafood dishes.

STOCKS AND SOUPS: Add pounded lemongrass to the fixings, allowing about one stalk per quart of liquid. Or simmer in vegetable, fish, meat, or poultry broth for ten minutes, then remove and add thinly sliced vegetables. Aromatize rice, delicate pasta, or shell beans with a few stalks slipped into the cooking water.

TEA: Bruise and slice two stalks; combine with one quart cold water. Bring to a simmer then remove from heat. Cover for 15 minutes; strain. Reheat, or chill for iced tea.

VEGETABLES: Add stalks while the vegetables are simmering.

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