Clay's Kitchen :

© Copyright 1995-2017, Clay Irving <>, Manhattan Beach, CA USA

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Lemon Grass

Lemon Grass Characteristics
Lemon grass, or lemongrass as it is sometimes spelled, is a native of India and it is widely used in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It is known as bhustrina or sera in India, bai mak nao in Laos, serai in Malayasia, and takrai, dtakrai, takhrai (depending on the translator) in Thailand.

Lemon grass contains an oil consisting mainly of citral, which is also found in lemons and oranges. Lemon grass provides a citrus flavor without the sourness or acidity of lemon. This citrus flavor blends well with garlic, chillies, and cilantro.

Selecting and Storing:
Lemon grass found in grocery stores is usually just the stalk without leaves. Look for lemon grass stalks that are plump at the base and not too dry. Store in a loosely closed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It can also be frozen for up to six months without any loss of flavor.

Personally, I place the lemon grass stalks in a small vase with the bottom of the stalks in water, like fresh flowers. I change the water when it gets a little cloudy.

Preparation and Use:
Only the stalk of the lemon grass is used. The green, grassy leaf blade in not commonly used for cooking. Trim off the bottom of the stalk. You should see purple concentric circles inside. You want to peel off some of the outer layers of the stalk until you peel down to the purple ring. This is the least fibrous part of the stalk.

"Bruising" is a common technique to prepare lemon grass. It basically means to smash the prepared lemon grass stalk. My preference is to use my Thai granite mortar and pestle -- A motar and pestle is an essential piece of equipment for a Thai kitchen!

You may also prepare lemon grass by smashing with a side of a large knife or a kitchen mallet.


Lemon grass is best used fresh, but it is also available in dry and powdered form. To use dried lemon grass, reconstitute with water prior to use.

Fresh lemon grass in Thailand. The sign is ตะไคร pronounced "tak-rai". Photograph by Clay Irving.

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