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lemon grass

One of the most important flavorings in Thai and Vietnamese cooking, this herb has long, thin, gray-green leaves and a woody scallionlike base. Citral, an essential oil also found in lemon peel, gives lemon grass its sour-lemon flavor and fragrance. It is available fresh or dried in Asian (particularly Thai) markets, produce markets and some supermarkets. Choose blemish-free green stalks with white roots. Store fresh lemon grass in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag, for up to 2 weeks. Use the white base up to where the leaves begin to branch to flavor tea, sauces, soups and curry dishes; discard lemon grass before serving. Lemon grass is also called citronella root and sereh.