Tanglad, commonly known as lemongrass is an aromatic and flavorful grass. A member of the sugarcane family, it is grown all year round especially in the tropics.
In the Philippines, it is known to be a refreshing bath for a new mother. It is also used in cooking. The lemony scent with a hint of ginger makes it also a refreshing drink as tea ice cold or hot.
A native to Sri Lanka and India, lemongrass is now grown everywhere especially in the United States. It is a popular ingredient in Southeast Asian and Thai cuisines. It grows virtually anywhere where the summers are hot and humid. It is easy to grow and virtually no pests, aside from being the house for slugs in my garden. I see slugs hiding in the clumps of the lemongrass sometimes.
Lemongrass or tanglad has blue-green, rough leaves with a strong scent of lemon. Just like an ornamental grass, growing it with other plants in your garden is a cinch. Each stalk is tubular and the most used part of the grass is the lowest part close to the roots. It is widely used in the culinary world today especially in Thai recipes. The leaves and other discarded part of the grass can be boiled and enjoyed as lemon-infused tea. Lemongrass or tanglad combined with the regular ginger (Luya) is what we make the drink we call “salabat tea”. Singers would benefit from drinking this tea because it relieves sore throat. During Holy Week in the Philippines, devotees of the Passion of Christ will sing the whole event and so drinking this tea is a comfort for the singers. Imagine singing the whole day!
I remember, my Mom using lemongrass as an ingredient cooking the catfish or “hito”. She would line a kettle or saucepan with fresh ginger leaves and then placed some pounded stalks of lemongrass. She then will place the cleaned catfish on top, cover it with some water and salt and steam until the catfish is cooked through. It is quite simple cooking method but it is the most delicious dish you would ever have. We also use it in our famous “Tinola”, which is cut-up pieces of chicken and sautéed in a combination of, I call it as a “mirepoix” of garlic, onion, ginger and lemongrass. After adding the chicken, and sautéed, add some water for broth and bring to a boil. Then when the chicken is tender, you may add either green papaya or sayote, cut up in bite-size pieces. When the papaya or sayote is tender, you can add chili leaves or spinach as a substitute. Season to taste with salt and ground pepper, and it is a delicious complete meal for a family.
You can easily grow a store bought plant or stalk just by soaking the bottom part of the plant in water until you see roots forming. Then you can transplant them in your yard or garden where it will receive plenty of full sun and room to grow because it will grow vigorously and takes a lot of space. Keep well-watered and you will have an endless supply of lemongrass all year-round (except for winter areas of course because lemongrass will not do well in cold climate).
I have been experimenting some recipes using lemongrass and my husband’s favorite is the Tom Yum soup. But my favorite is the beef-barbecue with lemongrass marinade. It is like the Thailand‘s “satay” we are all familiar with.
There are medicinal properties derived from lemongrass. It is considered as a diuretic, tonic and a stimulant. It also promotes good digestion. It reduces fever by inducing perspiration that cools the body. A mild insect repellant, it is widely known as citronella.
Essential oils from lemongrass is used in cosmetics like soaps and perfumes.
I enjoy lemongrass with my green tea every time. It is simply refreshing either hot or cold.