The Gentle Art of Lemongrass

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By Heidi Lewis

Monks and nuns of the Forest Tradition, a branch  of Theravada Buddhism, live in the seclusion of the  forests of Thailand and Sri Lanka. They wander the forests, meditate in  caves, sleep in modest mosquito net tents called klots, and take their  meals at the base of trees.

The forests are now dwindling, but historically the monks have  shared the jungles with tigers, elephants, poisonous snakes, and  ghosts—of which they’ve developed particular mastery over fear by  employing metta (loving kindness). They are ascetics, who emphasize  meditation over scholarly and literary pursuits and hold to the tenets  of the 227 rules of conduct.

Thai cooks generally do not use measuring cups, eschewing  exactitude, and are instead guided by the principle of balancing  essentially five flavors: spicy, sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. It’s a cuisine  that places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic  components.

Lemongrass is a wonderful aromatic  commonly used in Thai cuisine that can give any work-a-day dish a  delightful infusion of citronella. The whole stalk can be used, as you  might a bay leaf, imbuing soup stocks or teas with flavor. The soft  lower bulbous portion can be grated or sliced into rings and makes  a fine partner with ginger in many marinades and sauces.

Preparation: Strip away outer dry leaves and cut off root nub.  All parts can be used to make infusions or to add flavor to soups  and other dishes.

Storage: Wrap in a paper bag and store in crisper section of fridge.  Lemongrass will last one to two weeks if it doesn’t dry out. Store so  it doesn’t impart its essence onto other foods.

 

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