One of the cornerstones of South Asian cooking, lemon grass is a key player in the spicy cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Pale yellowish-green bundles of lemon grass (also known as citronella) are sold at Asian grocers and most large supermarkets. The inner stalks have a sour lemon taste that's released when crushed with the side of a knife. Remove the dry outer stalks and cut off the grassy tops. The bottom three to four inches of the bulb can be added to a dish whole or slivered, but if used whole, remove before serving.
This adapted recipe for Balinese Lemon Grass and Tomato Broth comes from Linda Bladholm's resource-full Asian Grocery Store Demystified (Renaissance). In a large saucepan, bring 11/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock to a boil, then add 3 slivered inner stalks of lemon grass, 6 large chopped tomatoes, 2 chopped shallots, 15 large coriander sprigs, 3 peeled slices of fresh ginger, 2 crushed cloves of garlic and 10 kaffir lime leaves or 1 tablespoon grated lime zest. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Strain through a sieve, discard the solids and add 2 tablespoons fish sauce. Place 1 tablespoon each of finely diced cucumber and tomato in four bowls before ladling in the broth. Garnish with ripped coriander leaves and raw bean sprouts, and serve with lime wedges on the side. SD