13

In my limited experience with lemongrass (which I buy fresh-ish in plastic bags from the fridge of my local asian supermarket - not frozen or dried or anything), it's hard and impossible to chew, no matter how long you cook it for. I usually smash it, split it down the middle and add it to soups or other dishes with a lot of liquid, then take it out at the end like a bay-leaf.

However, I've recently seen recipes in which finely chopped lemongrass is put straight in a stir-fry or a sauce, which just seems like a good way to end up picking bits out of your mouth to me. Is there a problem with the lemongrass I'm buying? Is it that only the green is hard and inedible? Or am I cooking it wrong?

7

You're not missing anything, lemongrass is very fibrous and often it is a good idea to remove it like a bay leaf. If it's quite fresh it can be left in if you peel away the outside layers, you use only the most tender portion (about a half-inch from the root to about 2 inches from the root), and you mince very finely. If you do all that, you can stir-fry or otherwise cook lemongrass, and keep it in the dish without causing your guests to spit it out.

There is no harm though in removing it.

  • 1
    Just to keep the bay leaf analogy going: companies like McCormick sell finely powdered bay leaf which is supposed to be perfectly edible, although I've never used it. – shadowtalker Jan 17 '15 at 15:27
  • @ssdecontrol: Some Garam masala variants also contain bay leaves. It is a pain to grind them in a mortar but if you take your time it is an actually rewarding addition to the blend. – AlexDeLarge May 2 '17 at 14:54
8

If you actually chop it finely, you should be okay. Specifically, you should cut it into thin disks against the grain first, so that you're cutting the fibers into short enough lengths not to bother you. Depending on how tough your lemongrass is, you may have to remove some outer layers to do this.

At that point, it may already be possible to chew, but further chopping should make sure of it. If the pieces are small enough, there isn't really anything to chew, and it's not too likely to stick in your mouth given that it's mixed in with plenty of other stuff in the dish.

That said, there's some variation in the toughness, and it does take a reasonably sharp knife to do this if the lemongrass is on the tough side, to the point that it might not be possible. So if you have issues chopping it finely (or too little of the stalk is tender enough to do so), falling back to your usual approach of infusing it into things is the way to go.

6

In Thai cooking, lemongrass is used in spicy soups like tom yam and tom kha (coconut soup with galangal). Here it’s not finely cut, and is just pushed aside when eaten, along with other spices like the galangal.

Thais also make a lemongrass salad called yam takhrai, where finely sliced lemongrass is eaten raw. Below is a link where you can see this being made – the cook slices the lemongrass at around 1:00. She remarks that it needs to be tender. Indeed, although I enjoy this dish, occasionally the lemongrass can be tough and difficult to chew. It may well be that the lemongrass you’re getting just isn’t suited for this kind of thing.

Yam takhrai

  • 2
    You're supposed to push galangal aside? Who knew? – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 16 '15 at 15:37
2

I make Tom Kha often. I find it best to remove one or two outer layers of the lemongrass, smash it adding it to the soup, then removing it before serving. The galangal root is really tough and hard to shave or cut into small pieces. I use ground galangal from Penzey's Spices and find it easy and delicious.

  • You can also buy the dry sliced galangal, and powder it up in your coffee grinder. – Wayfaring Stranger May 2 '17 at 21:23
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In addition to the other answers: most Thai curry pastes include lemongrass as an ingredient, where it is typically mashed to a fine paste using a mortar and pestle (I tend to remove the outer layer first, as it may be too dry / hard to mash easily). In this case you're most definitely supposed to eat the lemongrass!

1

Think of it like a heart of Palm. You would never eat the fibrous outer layers but the very heart is tender and soft.

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