Lemongrass – The soul of Thai cuisine
Thai people love lemongrass as much as they love chili. Lemongrass; therefore, is a signature feature in the cuisine of this land.
Not only used in cooking, lemongrass is also a part of Thai daily life. They grow lemongrass around their house in both rural areas and luxurious villas to ward off mosquitoes and other insects. They extract lemongrass for essential oils used in medicine, cosmetics, and traditional therapies. They drink fragrant tea made from lemongrass use lemongrass in most everyday dishes.
Lemongrass is a common plant grown in Southeast Asia. It’s used in many dishes in Vietnam and Thailand. These two countries share common ingredients but have their own recipes, creating different impression on Western visitors. While Vietnamese dishes are elegant, focusing more on fresh ingredients and the harmony, Thai cuisine is hot, and lemongrass plays a special role in this kind of flavor.
Thai cuisine is hot, and lemongrass plays a special role in this kind of flavor
Every visitor must try Tom Yum – the sour and spicy soup from the land of golden temples. Apart from spicy chili and the sour taste of fresh lime, Tom Yum carries an appealing aroma of lemongrass. However, not many people know that lemongrass is used in most Thai soups with fish, shrimp, or oysters. Lemongrass stems are bruised, cut into small pieces, and boiled before other ingredients are added.
For visitors, curry is less well-known than other Thai-style sour and spicy dishes, but it is usually included in the daily meals of Thai people. They eat curries like soup and use a variety of spices in cooking. Thai curries don’t have the strong flavor of Indian curries. They focus more on the ingredients and the texture by using coconut milk. The green bell peppers, mint, and lemongrass are not cooked through in order to retain their flavor. For stir-fry, the leaves are crushed and mixed in different ratios, creating different curries with suitable colors and tastes for different dishes.
One of Thailand’s favorite dishes is pad gung gaeng moo korb (crispy stir-fried pork with red curry). This dish is like love which draws you in but makes you “hurt” because of it. The heat of chili, the flavor of lemongrass, together with other signature Thai spices such as garlic, coriander, pepper, and onion create an explosion of taste and smell.
Thai people eat fresh lemongrass in salad. Khao yam is a rice salad from the Northern Thailand. Traditionally, Thais prepare khao yam with ingredients from their gardens such as grated sour mango, coconut flakes, bean sprouts, greens, and dried shrimp. Of course, an indispensable ingredient is lemongrass. Thin slices of lemongrass are gently cut from the bulb to the stem to keep its natural scent and sweet taste, contributing to this delicious dish.
Every time I visit my favorite Thai restaurant, the chef never forget to put a blue bean flower from his garden into my bowl. This is a precious little thing that makes me love this country and the people here.