Key Ingredient

Key Ingredient: Lemongrass

Grass Roots

The Unique Appeal of Lemongrass

In Southeast Asian cooking, lemongrass is a flavor powerhouse. Also called citronella grass, the tall perennial plant has an instantly recognizable flavor that manages to be both strong and delicate at the same time. Ask Braden Wages, chef and proprietor of Malai Kitchen in Dallas, Texas. “Lemongrass is subtle, yet adds complexity to many dishes,” he says. “The key to lemongrass is incorporating it correctly. Due to its fibrous nature, the two best ways to use it are to finely mince or use as an infusion.” But don’t just go throwing it in a pot; lemongrass requires a little prep work. “Before you begin to cut it,” Wages says, “it’s important to remove the outer dry layers, like an onion, and pound it to release the natural oils and garner the most flavor.” He continues, “The best part of lemongrass is the lower two to three inches of the stalk where it’s pink inside—that’s where the flavor lies. The rest of the stalk is too tough and dry to get much use.” In his kitchen, Wages uses lemongrass to put a little zip into Thai and Vietnamese dishes. It’s one of those ingredients that’s unique to specific cuisines, yet universal in its appeal.

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