Explore the Ingredient: Lemongrass

Lemongrass is truly the key to unlocking the magic of Southeast Asia cuisine. One of my all-time favorite Vietnamese noodle soups, Bún Bò Huế, holds a special place in my heart, and it simply wouldn't be the same without the aromatic touch of lemongrass.

I can vividly recall the memories of my childhood, when my nanny would take me on adventures to the vibrant outdoor market. We would come to Cô Út's Bún Bò Huế shop, settle down on those tiny, worn-out red plastic stools, fully immersed in the lively atmosphere surrounding us.

Even in the sweltering heat of Vietnam, that first spoonful of Bún Bò Huế, with its hearty beef broth infused with the invigorating essence of lemongrass, never failed to captivate my taste buds.

Lemongrass: My personal MVP of aromatics

But first, what is lemongrass? And no, it's not a combination of lemons and grass.

Lemongrass, scientifically known as Cymbopogon citratus, originates from South and Southeast Asia, spanning countries like India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

In South and Southeast Asian cooking, lemongrass often partners with ingredients such as garlic, galangal (and/or ginger), basil, shallots, and lime to create bold and complex flavors.
When used in cooking, lemongrass imparts a light yet intricate flavor profile and a delightful aroma. It derives its name from its lemony essence, but it also carries hints of ginger and even a subtle floral note. This unique combination makes lemongrass a versatile ingredient that enhances the flavors of sauces, soups, and meats.

Depending on the recipe, you may need to cut lemongrass in different ways. You can finely chop it or even crush it into a paste to release its essential oils. Lemongrass can also be used in whole stalks, providing a subtle infusion, or chopped and added to dishes for a more pronounced flavor. The choice is yours, and the possibilities are endless.

Another renowned dish that beautifully showcases lemongrass is tom yum kung, a beloved Thai soup. It boasts a delightful blend of spiciness, sourness, and a hint of sweetness, thanks to the harmonious combination of lemongrass, ginger, shiitake mushrooms, fish sauce, and red chili. This soup truly highlights the unique flavor of lemongrass and is adored by many.

Use of Lemongrass in Cocktails

When it comes to crafting cocktails, lemongrass adds a delightful twist that takes the drinking experience to new heights. Its vibrant flavors and invigorating aroma create a refreshing touch that captivates the palate. Whether muddled, infused, or used as a garnish, lemongrass adds a unique complexity to cocktails, making them truly extraordinary. From zesty citrusy notes to a hint of ginger-like spice, lemongrass effortlessly complements a wide range of spirits and ingredients.

Let me share with you one of my proudest creations—the Melodies of Time cocktail. This cocktail holds a special place in my heart, as it was one of the first drinks, I ever crafted for a bartender competition. Inspired to add an Asian twist to the classic margarita, I turned to my comfort ingredients: lemongrass & lychee. The zesty yet delicate essence of lemongrass intertwines with the luscious sweetness of lychee, creating a symphony of flavors that dance gracefully on the palate.

Trăm Phần Trăm’s Lemongrass Syrup

Behind the bar, lemongrass has become more than just an ingredient to me—it's a trusted companion that elevates my craft. Its unique flavors have inspired me to embark on a journey of exploration, seeking to share the remarkable taste of Southeast Asian cuisine with a wider audience. That's why I decided to craft Lemongrass Syrup—a gateway to a world of flavor that invites everyone to savor.

The possibilities are endless as this syrup becomes the secret ingredient in creative drinks. It harmonizes with spirits, playing with the botanical notes of gin, enhancing the smoky allure of mezcal, or balancing the richness of aged rum. Its versatility knows no bounds as it dances alongside other companions such as citrus, herbs, or even spice.