Meals that heal: The goodness of grass

TUFTS OF good health. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Native to warm temperate and tropical regions of the Old World and Oceania, lemongrass is tall perennial sedge that throws up dense fascicles of leaves from a short rhizome. The culm is stout, erect, up to 1.8m in height. Leaves are long, green, linear tapering upwards and along the margins. It is widely used as a herb in Asian cuisine. It has a subtle citrus flavour and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. Lemongrass is commonly used in teas, soups, and curries. It is also suitable for poultry, fish, beef, and seafood. It is often used as a tea in African and Latin American countries. Lemongrass oil, used as a pesticide and preservative, is put on the ancient palm-leaf manuscripts in India as a preservative.

Varieties of lemongrass include citronella grass, which grows to 2m and has red base stems. These species are used for the production of citronella oil, which is used in soaps, as an insect repellent in insect sprays and candles, and also in aromatherapy. Besides oil production, citronella grass is also used for culinary purposes, in tea and as a flavouring agent. East, also called Cochin grass or Malabar grass, is native to Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand while the West-Indian lemongrass also known as serai in Malay, are more suited for cooking. In India it is used both as a medicinal herb and in perfumes.

Lemongrass is known for its anti-carcinogenic properties causing apoptosis, programmed cell death in cancer cells. Citral, a molecule found in lemongrass, added to a cup of tea (one gram of lemon grass in hot water), induces programmed cell death in the cancerous cells, while the normal cells are left unharmed. Lemongrass is used locally over rheumatic joints, lumbago and spine. Leaves of lemongrass are valuable remedy for treating ring worm as a local applicant. An infusion of the grass, mixed with black pepper is given in painful and difficult menstruation. Lemongrass is beneficial in strengthening the functions of stomach and promoting its action. It is beneficial in the treatment of indigestion. Lemongrass induces copious perspiration and brings down temperature. It helps lower cholesterol levels and acts as a cleanser to the body by eliminating toxic substances from kidney, pancreas, liver, bladder. Now for a recipe.

Tom Yum Het Mangsawirat

(Mushroom Lemongrass Soup)


Lemongrass: 1stalk

Cilantro root and leaves: 10


Galangal: 5 gm

Kefir lemon leaves: 2 leaves

Garlic: 6 cloves

Shrimp paste: 8 gm

Red chilli paste: 5 gm

Tomato: 1

Mushroom: 8

Chilli: 1

Sugar: 3 gm

Lime juice: 1 tsp

Light soya: 1 tsp

Salt and pepper to taste


Put water in a sauce pan. Crush the lemongrass, shrimp paste, garlic, red chilli paste and cilantro root in a stone mortar, and add them to the water. Tear the lime leaves to release flavour, and throw them in too along with the galangal. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil on medium high heat. Boil your herbs for about five minutes or so, to release the flavours. The colour of the water should be a light red when finished. Add the mushrooms and chillies. Boil for 2-3 more minutes, until mushrooms are soft. Add the diced tomato, and cook until soft, probably less than a minute. Turn off the stove. Add soy sauce, sugar, and at the very end, lime juice. Taste to make sure the flavour is right. It should be very sour and spicy. Add more lime juice depending on how sour the limes are. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with cilantro.

Chef Varghese Joy Thoppil

Jr. Sous Chef Chef Varghese Joy Thoppil

Kefi, Taj Club House

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 11:40:13 AM |

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