How to use Lemongrass (Instructions & Video)

How to use lemongrass in the kitchen. Do you chop it? Grind it? Leave it whole? Find out here!
lemongrass photo
photo of lemongrass stalks
lemongrass stalks, bruised and sliced

Lemongrass is known as serai in Malay, sereh in Indonesian and Dakrai (or takrai) in Thai. It is an incredibly aromatic herb with sharp, citrusy, sweet and pine-like aroma and flavour.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

What is Lemongrass?

Lemongrass is, as its name suggests, a type of grass. Edible grass. There are many, many types of lemongrass, all in the Cymbopogon genus, and native in various parts of the world.

Besides being a prized cooking ingredient, it also has many health benefits. It’s supposed to aid digestion, relieve headaches and boost one’s immunity.

The 3 most common varieties are:

C. citratus

Also known as West Indian lemongrass, this is essentially the variety that’s sold in most places for culinary use.

It is native to South East Asia and is an essential ingredient everywhere, including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

C. flexiousus

This Cymbopogon is known as East Indian lemongrass, Cochin grass or Malabar grass and is native to the Indian sub continent as well as certain SE Asian countries like Burma and Thailand.

C. nardus

The nardus is the one that we know as citronella, and is cultivated for its essential oil, not just for warding off mosquitoes, but also in the perfume industry.

sliced lemongrass
and this is how you prepare lemongrass for use

How to use Serai

Serai (as I called it, growing up) is an ingredient that’s used in curries, soups, rice, salads, tea and to flavour drinks (think vodka and cocktails). We only use the bottom 3-4 inches of the stalk. This is the part that is less fibrous and dry, and where the flavour and aroma is concentrated.

It can be used in 3 different ways, as shown in the video:

  • as a whole bulb, with its end smashed with the back of a knife, to release its oil, aroma and flavour. We call this bruising the lemongrass.
  • ground to a paste.
  • chopped up fine and used raw in salads.

How to cook Lemongrass

As mentioned, serai can be used in so many different ways. When used in curries, quite often, 1 bulb (or two) is used in the paste, and another bulb is used whole and dropped into the curry as it’s cooking.

There is no need to fish the lemongrass out before serving. It is so big there you won’t be swallowing it accidentally. You can easily avoid dishing it up if you want.

However, if you do dish it up, the person who gets it on their plate can squash it down with their cutlery and get even more flavour in their meal. That’s how you eat lemongrass!

You can also make tea with this edible grass. Bruise a whole bulb (squash it with the back of your knife), drop it in a mug, and pour some off-the-boil water onto it. That means boil the water, count to ten, then pour. This is so as not to ruin the essential oil. Sweeten as needed.

Fan of vodka? Drop a couple of bruised stalks into a bottle of vodka and leave for a month. Then enjoy!

The stalks can also be used as skewers for satay or any type of barbecue. Your meat or vegetables will have a delicious flavour from them.

Needless to say, I have so many recipes that use serai, most of them are still on LinsFood.com, and of course the Thai and Vietnamese ones will stay there. But here are some examples from SMR (this site).

Recipes using Lemongrass

Beef Rendang Recipe (Resepi Rendang Daging)
Beef Rendang (rendang daging), the way my mum made it. A curry with meltingly tender beef, slow cooked in a rich, aromatic and highly spiced coconut gravy.
Check out this recipe!
Beef rendang in a dark bowl with yellow rice in the background
Sambal Matah, Indonesian Raw Spicy Salsa from Bali
Sambal Matah Recipe, an Indonesian raw, spicy shallot and chilli salsa or condiment from the island of Bali.
Check out this recipe!
squeezing lime juice on shallot salsa
Ikan Asam Pedas (Hot and Sour Malay Fish Curry)
Ikan Asam Pedas is a hot and sour, almost soupy, Malay fish curry found in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Traditionally, it’s always served with rice.
Check out this recipe!
Ikan asam pedas, fish curry

How to store Lemongrass

Lemongrass will keep in the fridge easily for a week. It will survive 2-3 weeks too, but will just be a little on the dry side, with touches of yellow or brown.

You can also freeze the stalks in bags, whether whole or in slices. They will keep for a month. Just be sure to thaw before grinding.

And that’s that. Let’s go take a look at the various methods of preparing lemongrass for cooking. Got any questions? Just ask!

♥ If you found this article useful, don’t forget to leave me a comment and that all important, 5-star rating! Thank you! 

And feel free to tag me on Instagram @azlinbloor with your recipes. If using one of mine, hashtag it #linsfood.

Lin xx

lemongrass photo

How to use Lemongrass

Azlin Bloor
How to use lemongrass in the kitchen. Do you chop it? Grind it? Leave it whole? Find out here!
5 from 17 votes
Cuisine International

Equipment

  • knife
  • chopping board
  • chopper

Ingredients
 

  • 1-2 stalks lemongrass as called for in your recipe

Instructions
 

How to use Lemongrass Whole

  • Top and tail your lemongrass. In other words, slice off the tough bottom end (the root end) of the lemongrass. And cut off the top part, leaving about 10 cm/4 inches of stalk.
  • Peel off the top layer, if it's particularly dry or dirty, or looking a little yellow. If not, leave it alone. Rinse your lemongrass and dry.
  • Place your lemongrass on a chopping board and bash hard on the thick end with the back of your knife. This is called bruising your lemongrass. Drop the whole thing (including any lose bits) into your recipe.
    No need to fish out at the end of the cooking. If your lemongrass lands on your plate, you're the lucky one, squash down with your cutlery to release those delicious juices.

Preparing lemongrass for grinding or chopping

  • Top and tail your lemongrass. In other words, slice off the tough bottom end (the root end) of the lemongrass. And cut off the top part, leaving about 10 cm/4 inches of stalk.
  • Peel off the top layer, if it's particularly dry or dirty, or looking a little yellow. If not, leave it alone. Rinse your lemongrass and dry.
  • Using a sharp knife, slice your lemongrass into thin rings, then add to your chopper with the other ingredients. Slicing your lemongrass makes it easier to be ground, as it is fibrous by nature.

How to use Lemongrass Raw

  • Top and tail your lemongrass. In other words, slice off the tough bottom end (the root end) of the lemongrass. And cut off the top part, leaving about 10 cm/4 inches of stalk.
  • Peel off the first 2 layers of the lemongrass to reveal the softer, inner flesh.
  • Using a sharp knife, slice your lemongrass into thin rings, then chop it up fine, as you see me doing in the video. Add to your salad, which is how raw lemongrass is usually used.

Video

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