Chopping lemongrass makes me want to chop off my hand
December 15, 2007 8:18 AM   Subscribe

The boy and I are trying to make a sort of bulk Thai seasoning paste, which we've previously freezed in portions pretty successfully. One thing is holding us back, though -- the absolute )*&^&*$ we have to go through to chop the lemongrass properly. What with us using a pound or two of lemongrass, even chopping it roughly to do the rest in the food processor is a pain (literally), and the last time we did this we ended up with a whole bunch of stringy bits. Yes, we've peeled off the outer layers and chopped off the tough bit at the bottom; we typically use a large, properly sharpened chef's knife. Any other tips?
posted by Madamina to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I've never found it that easy.

A teeny bit of Googling turned up this video which is basically a long way of saying "bash it, let it flavour your food, then take it out"
posted by Magnakai at 8:30 AM on December 15, 2007

The best method I found was after slicing the softest, best bits into to THIN round slices was chopping with two cleavers. Now, you will need a very good cutting board that can handle the double cleaver method. You will also need a very stable surface and it was not unusual to place the cutting board on the floor before the serious double chopping began. Truly only the softest inner parts of the lemon grass should be done this way. The texture is fine without seeming "destroyed" like a food processor and the quality, I thought, was better.

Now, the food processor seems to work the larger the batch but is awful for small batches unless you are using the small bowl. Even then, I found pre-slicing very thin worked better as part of the prep. Just sticking the lemongrass into the food processor worked poorly.

Oops, how thing? Well, I try from 1/16" to 1/8"
posted by jadepearl at 8:34 AM on December 15, 2007

You should note that jadepearl probably means Chinese cleavers, apparently aka Chinese chef's knives, which are chef's-knife-like blades but shaped like a cleaver and with the weight of a cleaver. These are great for chopping vegetables finely by attacking them with one cleaver in each hand, as seen on Iron Chef sometimes.

Using two meat cleavers on plant matter probably wouldn't get you very far. Here's a side view of the two different blade shapes.
posted by librarina at 10:13 AM on December 15, 2007

i don't usually leave lemongrass in my food because of the texture issue. i use it like a bay leaf...good for seasoning, not eating. why not leave it in big chunks so it can infuse the food, but be picked out easily before serving?
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:58 AM on December 15, 2007

Could you please share your recipe?
posted by sourwookie at 12:08 PM on December 15, 2007

You really can only use the softest, inner core of the lemongrass. It hits you like an enormous waste/rip-off, I know...
posted by Thorzdad at 1:36 PM on December 15, 2007

I'm pretty sure I've seen lemongrass in a jar here in Australia in the spice aisle. Not as good as fresh, obviously, but it you're just doing a paste to be frozen, it might be preferable to all the chopping if you can find some.
posted by web-goddess at 1:39 PM on December 15, 2007

you need a grinder to get smooth pastes from lemongrass and other fiberous material. bonus: you can make chocolate from cocao beans too.
posted by Infernarl at 4:54 PM on December 15, 2007

Ah, I had forgotten about wet grinders. I almost got the Sumeet grinder but was informed that it had repair issues. Infernarl, any particular manufacturer with a great repair record?

Also, yes, it is Chinese cleavers that are used in the double cleaver method. I completely forgot to specify.

One method of not feeling you were robbed blind for the softest part is taking the outer stalks and tougher bits and basically do as thinkingwoman suggested and braise or simmer with it. I do this for duck curries. I take the leaves and tie them as a folded bundle and place in the curry during its simmer stage. It is never consumed but simply taken out after the curry has hit the correct flavor point.
posted by jadepearl at 5:46 PM on December 15, 2007

You could try making an extract or a tincture of lemongrass. Dunno if this would throw the moisture balance of your paste off, but if you are going to freeze it anyway the extra moisture shouldn't be a problem. Alcohol might not work as well for freezing (if you want the paste to be a semisolid, anyway), but might also get more flavor out of the plant material. In either case, chopping/mashing the lemongrass before steeping will get more flavor out of it in a shorter time.
posted by oats at 10:58 AM on December 16, 2007

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