Lemongrass Cooking Ideas
After searching my town (Baton Rouge, LA) for good quality fresh lemongrass to no avail, I opted to purchase some fresh stalks of lemongrass from an import food source online and had it delivered next day. It's great quality, fresh, and I have lots of it. I used four stalks for Tom Kha Gai soup, but I have about 20 fresh stalks just hanging out in the fridge begging to be used for something else while they're still fresh.
I'm new to Thai cooking, but does anyone have ideas (Thai or otherwise) for me to use up the lemongrass? I thought about maybe a marinade for meat, but couldn't find many topics here about its use.
While we're at it ... how long do I have til I need to use it all up? The stalks seem that they could last for a couple weeks in the fridge since they're pretty rigid and do not retain a lot of moisture.
Not a direct answer to your question, and I don't know precisely what the climate is like in BR, but I'll bet it'd grow very well outside down there. It is, and grows like, a weed.
As for the tea someone mentioned, the leaves themselves make a nice tea - indeed, the only way Jamaicans use the stuff at all from what I've been told (they don't cook with the stalks), and it grows wild there...
You can make a lemongrass syrup - just make simple syrup (boil equal part of sugar and water until the mixture thickens). Cut the lemongrass into small pieces and steep for 15 mins or so. Let it sit until cool and strain the lemongrass out. You can keep the syrup in the fridge for a few weeks - great to pour over ice cream or sorbets or custards or fruits!
Oh, an even simpler use - use the lemongrass stalks as skewers to grill shrimp, pork, or chicken!
I second the freezing. Since it's hard to come by where you are, freeze some for later. Make sure it's wrapped real well so it doesn't take up the smell of the freezer. You can also freeze lime leaves and chilies too. And galangal (but it does get a funny texture). I recommend this for people who have a hard time getting Thai ingredients. (It's what I used to do when I lived in the US)
For using the stuff, I recommend tom khaa (like you already tried) or tom yum. Thais also make a really tasty lemongrass drink, which is I believe just smashed boiled lemongrass with water and sugar, then strained. I've never made it, but I've drank it quite often. It's pretty green when I drink it, so I assume you boil it until it's fragrant and green color, then add sugar and serve iced. MMmm! Really worth a try.
Also, you can make your own curry pastes. Most of them call for lemongrass (among other things which may be harder to come by).
Here are some of my recipes which use lemongrass:
http://www.realthairecipes.com/recipes/clear-mushroom-lemongrass-soup/ <- tom yum
http://www.realthairecipes.com/recipes/green-curry-p-malas-recipe/ <- green curry
http://www.realthairecipes.com/recipe... <- tom khaa
Also, I have yet to put up another recipe, it's fried chicken with lemongrass. Essentially you cut your lemongrass stalks in about 3" pieces, then smash. Since lemongrass is really fibrous, it won't smash to bits, just to fibers. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, use the butt of a heavy knife. Deep fry these fibers and set aside. Then, fry pieces of chicken in the oil. Strain, and place inside a pot with a lid with the lemongrass and some salt. Shake to mix, and serve. This one is good with beer. I'll put up a recipe (with pictures/measurements) soon.
Im sure you know if using it to eat you want to pound the stalks to break up the fibers. I have used them in the past as skewers. They also go great as part of a bouquet garni. WHen making a soup or broth tie together your herbs and lemongrass so you are able to discard later. Makes a great flavor in rice if using the same way. Ive had a soup with lemongrass in it before but other than that, Ive never actually eaten it in anything. It may actually be good to add to wood chips when smoking. Just some thoughts. Skewer some fresh shrimp you have there or chicken and cook over the grill.
Also great in ponzu if cut thin:
MIx together to taste,. Dilute the soy sauce with other liquids. Use a few drops of sesame oil (can be over powering). Great for ahi tuna and california rolls or sushi. Great flavor.
We use it as a marinade too - somewhat similar to your version. Debone chicken thighs and marinade them for the grill. We normally like bone-in for meats, but find that deboning allows for more surface area for the marinade and also makes for easier and more even grilling :
Sorry I don't have the proportions - our recipes are buried somewhere in the garage for our remodel. I do recall equal amounts of fish sauce and soy sauce but you want to start out with less than more as the salt can be pretty potent in both ingredients. The amount of garlic is up to you - we love it so we don't pull back on that. The honey can be substituted with brown sugar if you prefer that - either is added just to add a little sweet note and to aid in browning. And the sesame oil, as mentioned, is very strong so use just enough to get that nutty scent. The list of ingredients hits just about all of the flavor senses that most people find favorable.
It's always received favorable responses. In fact, since I'm usually the one doing the grilling, I've learned to set aside a thigh or two for myself. Reason being, if I don't, no one thinks about saving any for me - they're usually too busy grubbing them down. This dish goes very well with simple white rice. If you want, you can do a coconut rice by adding coconut milk (canned) in replacement of water - it's up to you if you want to replace all or just part of the water. Coconut can be somewhat strong to some so it's a personal preference thing. Chicken stock also works well and you can even mix the two ingredients in place of the required water for rice.
The lemon grass can be pounded and minced if you want the full essence of it, or you can slice it like you would a green onion - these can easily be removed before, during, or after the grilling.
I don't know if Kaffir lime leaves are available in your area, but we often use that in conjunction with or as a substitute for lemon grass. It's a totally different kind of citrus note but works equally well.
Both lemon grass and Kaffir lime should be easily cultivated in Louisiana - you just need to avoid the frost if your area is prone to it...
Thanks for the wealth of information. What methods do you use to pound the stalks? I don't have too many tools and was using a meat hammer but that was turning the insides to mush but doing practically nothing visible to the outside layers of the stalks. (The soup still picked up the taste well, so I assume I was doing something, just not sure what.)