Lemongrass is widely used in Southeast Asian countries. It is an ingredient for a variety of dishes that shouldn’t be missing from the platters of the table, for occasions, or even when there is nothing to celebrate. The lemongrass brings the recipe to the next level. It is a favorite because of its aroma, the flavor that it gives to the food and of course its herbal properties. Honestly, I myself couldn’t resist when I smell a hint of lemongrass that somehow gives the feeling of getting surrounded by its strong scent exciting this giddy eater in me for the taste that it has to offer.
Its purpose does not only include it as a seasoning but lemongrass can be used as well in preparing teas. Lemongrass can somehow be considered an all in one plant in which it has different usages that you wouldn’t even think possible if you are not familiar with it yet.
Since I grew up with cuisines with which lemongrass cannot be out from its ingredients, you can say that it is invaluable in my diet. I have grown accustomed to it. During high school, you would have probably encountered investigatory projects too where you do research and make products out from your innovativeness and creativity extracted from resources or ideas found to be helpful. We had chosen the lemongrass and found that it is a good repellant so we had created a mixture that would repel mosquitoes from people’s skin to decrease the number of dengue cases in our region. And yes we defended it, went through more studies to elaborate how a lemongrass can indeed repel mosquitoes and guess what we received an A. You could have heard this idea already from the internet or educational sources but I tell you, they are not bluffing or introducing something that cannot be easily done and which is only a viable idea to the experts. You can try it for yourself, the procedures are easy.
A lemongrass’ one distinct characteristic is its antifungal capability. Not only that, the lemongrass is a good pesticide. If you are one of the few individuals now who like to plant and grow veggies, fruits, other crops in their backyards, you might get interested to go hunting for lemongrass now. You can save dollars using this natural product that is as effective as the chemically prepared item sold in the market. If you plant this in your vicinity, it does keep insects away from your surroundings. Who doesn’t want that? You can have insect repellants and an ingredient for an appetizing Southeast Asian cuisine at the same time. That is so practical.
Where can one find Lemongrass?
Lemongrass or Cymbopogon is more commonly applied by Southeast Asians in their cooking but this lemongrass can also be found in other parts of Asia, Africa, and Australia. Yes, it is limited only to locations where it can thrive; it grows in tropic areas such as what was mentioned. There are different types of lemongrass which are native to a certain place and would determine too in what aspect it can be most useful in. It could be more appropriately employed for medicinal purposes, for cooking or for perfumes.
What can one do when it is needed but can’t find one?
Due to the fact that the right lemongrass for your own intention is hard to find, I have here the substitutes that you can use in order that, although you might not be lucky enough to easily get lemongrass whenever you want, you would still be able to do at least as good, the task that was given to you which needed the lemongrass.
For some locations, the powdered lemongrass is available in supermarkets in sachets or packages from a price as low as $2. But the probability that you might be located near that supermarket is about less than 5% if you are not from the places I’ve mentioned where this lemongrass thrives. So today we will be addressing the concerns of the food enthusiast persons who want to try how a dish would taste differently by adding some lemongrass into its elements. We won’t dwell with other uses of lemongrass since you can just buy pesticides or mosquito repellants if the plant is not available in the extent of your region. We will tackle the substitutes of lemongrass as an ingredient that gives that unique taste you can only find in my home.
What are different recipes for lemongrass?
What are good substitutes of Lemongrass for these recipes?
For us to be able to determine how to substitute lemongrass for a dish, let us get to know first what these dishes are and why the lemongrass is a huge part of their taste.
This recipe is from the country of Thailand. It uses chopped lemongrass both for garnishing, for the added flavor and for a tangy dressing that one can find complete satisfaction from. This chicken dish is famous for its sweet and spicy taste that is brought to you by the rich broth emulsified in the mixture with chili. It uses the thigh part diced into not too small parts but just enough for a bite size. It is made yummier with lemongrass as the primary element used for the process of marinating the chicken. Now after at least half an hour of marinating which you can do by leaving it in the fridge, you can then withdraw it and start cooking.
Start sautéing the lemongrass until the smell is evident and afterwards, fry the chicken until brownish (cooked). Now you are ready to pour unto it the fresh chicken broth. Mix and let it settle for about 5 minutes and then add sugar and salt to suit your desired taste. Wait for another couple of minutes until the liquid mixture has become viscous, and has coagulated. Serve and enjoy your lemongrass grass chicken with a hint of spiciness!
You may serve this dish on occasions such as for family gatherings. Thai cuisines are known for its distinct taste and flavor with extensive use of spices that brings forth a pungent aroma. It does not only look delicious from appearance but the use of more seasonings gives it a very rich, unique and unforgettable savoring. Do not miss the chance after reading the procedures I have narrated to make your own lemongrass chicken and give your own twist and identity by experimenting its saltiness, spiciness and sweetness. The cooking time for this dish is from ten to thirty minutes. Within that short timeframe, you can eat as much as your tummy desires! It is bursting with flavors in which lemongrass acts as the forefront of distinct identity that this Thai cuisine exhibits.
How to substitute lemongrass for this kind of dishes?
If you really want to make this lemongrass chicken dish that will make you feel like you are in Thailand, you would want to retain the ingredients that I have provided. Restaurants that specialize in this cuisine imports lemongrass from Southeast Asia or from the nearest region that cultivates them but you need not get worried as you will not have to import. It is impractical to do so if you only want to test and enjoy it in one sitting. Well unless if the allowance in your pocket is huge enough to accommodate for the expense.
But if it’s not, you better try this lemongrass substitute to preserve the taste of your newly discovered recipe “lemongrass chicken” while saving a lot of money. This substitute of lemongrass will not only be helpful to those living far away from Southeast Asia or from the regions where it is growing but also to those who have them in their places. You do not always have the time to go to the grocery stores, so you better learn alternatives for when you are out of lemongrass. This gets handy when it is urgent.
Lemon Zest as Lemongrass Substitute
The juice of this lemon zest, in particular, is the one that we will need for our dish. That is why it must be ground using a mortar and pestle before it can be used for cooking this dish. To substitute and create a similar product the offers the same taste, one must have one-half to one-third of a tablespoon of this lemon zest to maintain the same aroma and preserve the savor of the lemongrass chicken that requires about 1 stalk of lemongrass. You might doubt this spice substitute since lemongrass and lemon are not from the same family of herbs but you can try it for yourself.
The lemongrass has this strong, pungent aroma which this lemon zest also gives off. Lemon can be bought from the nearest stores and it shouldn’t be missing from your kitchen. We would assume. I like that while preserving the flavor of lemongrass, it also adds juiciness to the dish. Together with the chicken broth, your lemongrass chicken is not only spicy and sweet but it has this juiciness to fit anyone’s palate. For the presentation of the dish, a lemon zest surely will make this more dramatic. You can put it at the sides in a palatable way such that it looks luxurious while adding the thick sauce all over, and wait there’s the rice to complete!
Philippines as a country rich in spice recipes
The Philippines is not only home of the recently crowned Ms. Universe Catriona Gray and the Boxing Champ Manny Pacquiao but this country is known for the delectable dishes that you can find wherever part of the archipelago you’d visit. It can be pinpointed that the Philippines was a primary target a long time ago for Spain to colonize. That is because this country has a rich soil where a variety of spices flourish. It sent expeditions that tried to conquer the land primarily for it is able to cultivate different herbs. Philippines is privileged for the abundance of natural resources that it gets from being a land composed of more than seven thousand islands.
You may take a 3 to as much days as you want for your trip in this region but for sure you won’t get enough for all the goodies it can give from the vast sunny white beaches of Boracay, to the blue seas of Siargao, and of course the Adobo that Filipinos take pride of.
What is White Adobo?
From presenting the country of the Philippines as where you can have a good break from work for the beauty that it poses. Let us move on with its most popular dish. And where have we come to? How is this related to lemongrass? Don’t you know that more than the normal Adobo dish which has the color of a soy sauce, there is another kind which is the less familiar one which recipe was discovered earlier. It is the white Adobo, now that sounds completely unfamiliar and quite shocking even to Filipinos themselves.
A white Adobo is a variation that uses the “Tanglad” (a native language for lemongrass) as the primary spice that gives its tastiness. It may look colorless because the soy sauce was not used, instead, vinegar and lemongrass primarily catalyzed and the dish was blitzed by it along with pepper and some other spices such as garlic.
Adobo is already known as a dish that carries the identity of Filipinos, oozing with sumptuousness up to the bones brought about by the marinating the chicken with the vinegar, soy sauce, after which, Patis is added.
What to substitute on Lemongrass for this Dish?
Not the lemon zest juice that is a good substitute of lemongrass on the Thai Lemongrass chicken recipe but the juice from the pulps of lemon. One tip I can give is that it is better used when it is preserved. You can make this by simply juicing the lemon from its pulps then putting it inside the “garapon” or a small bottle. Leave it for days after which you can now add this to your dish which gives the same citrusy savor of the White Adobo variation.
Why lemon juice is a good substitute?
A lemon juice is convenient to have as an alternative since it is easy to be found and the juice is superior in citrus flavor than the lemon zest. The lemon zest hints bitterness, that is favorable to dishes with distinctive flavor such as the Lemongrass chicken however if you have a more conservative dish to cook that is sensitive enough, it is safer to substitute lemongrass for lemon juice. Be the first to taste this unique dish, a variation of the renowned recipe, Adobo from the Philippines. It is more fun in the Philippines with White Adobo!
Those are just two of the dishes that highlight the Flavor of Lemongrass
But here are more substitutes that you can use for either of the two and for many more Lemongrass recipes!
You hear it right, lemon leaf. Yet, one must remember that; while this is a viable choice, it should be of a last resort substitute as the addition of lemon leaf in your dish needs an advanced skill in cooking to experiment and adjust on the taste. If you are what I am describing, you can definitely use this without any problems but for beginners who are still new to learning the art of cooking, better stay away from this suggestion because it might just ruin the dish. After all it needs careful and expert judgment to be able to make the lemon leaf a good substitute for lemongrass.
And why would you be dealing with this lemon leaf if you have the lemon zest and the lemon juice? Well it only depends on you. The juiciness and the citrusy tang that the aforementioned give might not suffice the expectation of the perfectionist in you so one would resort to a lemon leaf hoping to find alleviation as to what one seeks to achieve. The taste is in one’s hands as they say.
Arugula plus Lemon Zest
This “combi” does come out strong with arugula first and to make its aroma robust, there is an added lemon zest. Lemon zest alone can make a good substitute. It has the juiciness with a subtle bitterness in it that is perfect with dishes in Thailand that are uniquely bursting with a mix of flavors. Granting, sometimes, the different spices used does produce disagreement between spiciness, sweetness, and bitterness, but this is why Thai cuisines are typically preferred by guests and travelers. We all love to try something distinguishing when we are out of town or out of our country.
Arugula with its peppery taste, with spiciness together with the lemon zest’s citrusy tang accommodates and replicates better the characteristics of a lemongrass. If one substitute can’t do a flawless job, then two might not disappoint. Arugula unlike lemongrass can be cultivated anywhere, and not specified to a certain region, thus accessible. Arugula is used as a condiment and as spice for sauce and soups, for liquor and desserts to. Wait; there is your favorite omelet. Most can’t live without adding some arugula in their omelet breakfast.
Arugula plus Lemon Zest, is a decent combination that is superior than individual lemon juice or lemon zest. It caters to more recipes, more accessible by purchasers, affordable and versatile ideally fitting to the Asian, Australian and American palates.
Ginger and Coriander as substitute for Lemongrass
Ginger, this spicy and aromatic rhizome is available all year round from your supermarkets. It makes a worthy substitute for lemongrass because of its availability and for its many advantages on our health. It is dubbed as the healthiest on the planet. That could be an exaggeration but it is true that it does offer lots of health benefits to individuals who consume it. With cholesterol level of about 5, that is sure to be preferred by dieticians and weight conscious persons such as supermodels, and for diabetic people. A low level of cholesterol in ginger prevents diabetes.
It allows for better circulation of the blood keeping the vessels free from clogging fats, thus preventing hypertension. Moreover, ginger is recommended by health professionals to relieve any gastrointestinal pain. It cleans and maintains our gastrointestinal tracts. It is both rich in flavor and a healthy choice.
We mostly refer coriander to the green leaves that we often see for garnish that is done after a dish has been cooked and is ready to be plated on. But actually the whole plant and not just the leaf of coriander are edible. Nonetheless for the lemongrass substitute, we will only be dealing with the leaf. It provides garnish to a dish and has tones that resembles the citrusy tang.
Why it’s a perfect substitute?
To be paired with the strong aroma + spiciness of ginger + citrusy tang of coriander, it makes this a superior alternative. You could be anywhere in the world right now without the chance to meet a single lemongrass in your area. But do not fret this combination of ginger and coriander will do its magic into your cooking!
Benefits of knowing the substitutes of a Lemongrass
From reading these alternatives if you do not have enough time to get the lemongrass even from the nearest grocery store, or if you are just someone who is fond of Southeast Asian cuisines finding it interesting to try the distinct flavor the recipes can offer, but is not lucky enough to have a lemongrass cultivated in your region, knowing the substitutes is a need if not a want.
Recipes have their own bounds that determine its identity, unique to its native country. The examples presented such as the Lemongrass Chicken and the White Adobo are evidences of this. The lemongrass is part of their identity, being native to its land. However creating a new and varied version that will not so much deviate from the original taste is where these substitutes come into play. They may be individual or combined. Check it out and start cooking.
How to choose the Perfect Alternative?
This decision will give you a headache if you are a beginner for cooking just as what I have said earlier. It is harder to estimate how much you should add on the dish which is dependent on the dish itself. For the Thai recipe introduced, it is more on a recipe that encourages one to be bolder and take to a next level to one’s own course. Thus, experimentation and reliance on one’s expertise is key. We are talking about expertise here as familiarity to cooking itself and not specifically to the recipe. If you are a good cook then you know what you are expecting from its taste. You get an imagination in it in your head while not fully realizing it until the flavor slips into your tongue.
However, the extent to which you can experiment on the taste and which disagreement becomes the theme of the cooking is limited to few recipes that is why it is best that you choose a conservative substitute of lemongrass for this sensitive types of recipes and avoid lemon leaf, and combinations of substitutes so that you can easily control and stir up flavor.