A look at exciting Asian ingredients readily available in Singapore, to discover their traditional uses, health benefits and ways to incorporate these local flavours into Western home cooking.
This month’s ingredient: Lemongrass
Aliases: Fever grass, camel’s hay, geranium grass, Cochin grass, sereh (powder form)
What is it?
Lemongrass is a tropical, perennial green grass that can reaching up to 1.5 metres and grows from woody, edible, pale green-yellow stalks comprised of tightly packed layered leaves. Fresh lemongrass stalks should feel firm and heavy, with no bruising or browning. Flimsy, light, dry stalks are likely to be less fresh and have less flavour.
A unique, citrusy flavour that has a warm floral note.
Where do you find it?
Most supermarkets stock fresh lemongrass in their refrigerated vegetable sections. Only the bottom of lemongrass stalks are sold; the leaves and upper stalks are removed beforehand. Lemongrass keeps in the fridge for up to three weeks, or you can store it in your freezer for months.
In Southeast Asian cooking, especially Thai, Vietnamese and Sri Lankan cuisine.
Essential oil from lemon grass is often used:
– as a mosquito repellent
– to fragrance perfumes, soaps, candles and detergents
– as a facial astringent and skin toner
– in aromatherapy to revitalise the body and help relieve stress
– in massage therapy as a muscle toner
Steep a bashed stalk in a bottle of vodka for at least five days to add an exotic note to cocktails or vodka and soda.
The woody stalks make attractive, flavourful skewers for grilling prawns or chicken.
Soak a couple of bruised stalks in your bath for a revitalising aromatherapy treat.
Recipe: Lemon Grass Iced Tea
Recipe from Robert Danhi’s Easy Thai Cooking
A thirst-quenching pitcher of this Asian take on iced tea is the perfect refreshment on hot, lazy afternoons at the poolside, and at barbecues. Serves 4 to 6
8 whole stalks of lemongrass
8 cups (1.75 litres) water
½ cup (100g) sugar
2 black teabags
1. Simmer the lemongrass and water over a low heat for 20 minutes to let the flavours infuse.
2. Remove from heat, stir in the sugar and teabags and steep for 20 minutes.
3. Strain, cool and chill in the refrigerator. Serve over crushed ice.