A THAI FOOD STAPLE
Lemongrass is a stalky plant with a lemony scent that grows in many tropical climates, most notably in Southeast-Asia. A common ingredient in Thai cooking, lemongrass provides a zesty lemon flavor and aroma to many Thai dishes. Lemon juice (or lime) may be substituted for lemongrass in a pinch, but citrus fruits will not be able to fully replicate its particular qualities.
Lemongrass is also thought to have numerous health benefits , especially when used in combination with other Thai spices such as garlic, fresh chillies, and coriander. (For more on the health benefits of lemongrass and other Thai ingredients, see: Is Thai Food Good for You?) In fact, scientists are now studying Thailand’s favorite soup: Tom Yum Kung, which contains all of these herbs and spices, with lemongrass as the key player. Tom Yum is thought to be capable of combatting colds, flus, and even some cancers. (To Make Tom Yum Soup yourself at home, see my Easy Tom Yum Soup Recipe.)
Shopping Tips: When purchasing lemongrass, look for firm stalks (not soft or rubbery, which means it’s too old). Lower stalk should be pale yellow (almost white) in color, while upper stalks are green (do not purchase if outer leaves are crusty or brown). Usually fresh lemongrass is sold in groupings of 3-4 stalks, secured with an elastic band. Stalks are approximately 1 foot long (or more). Look for fresh lemongrass at your local grocery store or Asian market. If you can’t find it with the fresh produce, check the freezer section – lemongrass stalks are also sold in frozen packets.