Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lemongrass & Palm Sugar Drink

Sorry for the lack of posts. It's not that I have not been making soups but life and business intervened. Business, clients, family, life. 

Whenever I get tired or bored, I'd head to the kitchen. I'll try a new recipe and a lot of people find cooking tedious (especially in my case when it's just my husband and me). Some people ask me, "Isn't it far easier to head out to the hawker stalls or a coffeeshop and get dinner over and done with?" 

After all, I am living in Penang. The island with the most lipsmackingly delicious street food. 

I admit that cooking small portions can be tedious BUT as I said, cooking and tinkering in the kitchen is my escape from a world that gets too hectic (at least for me). 

Cooking and gardening are my escapes. 

So this blog post is inspired by what's growing in my tiny patch of garden. 

I've been growing serai or lemongrass in a pot in my garden. It's been thriving happily. But at times I forget to use the serai in my cooking (or rather I have not been cooking dishes which need serai!) so the serai grows and grows. 

Serai is so easy to grow - it needs water and plenty of sunshine. It tolerates neglect well and you don't need to do any trimming except if you want to cut or dig some stalks out. Be careful though when you're digging serai as the leaves can be sharp. I always wear gardening gloves when I am pulling out serai. 

One day I thought I should get some lemongrass to make a beverage. I don't cook with it but at least I could make a drink out of it. 

So I did. And it is refreshing on a humid day. 

Lemongrass stalks and palm sugar - 2 simple ingredients for a healthy Asian beverage

All you need are a few stalks of serai or lemongrass and some gula melaka or palm sugar. Bring about 1 liter of water to boil and add the sliced up stalks of lemongrass. Add about 100gm of palm sugar and let the whole concoction simmer for 20 minutes on low heat, covered. 

You can drink it warm or you can store the excess in the fridge. I prefer mine chilled as it is lovely and refreshing. You can adjust the amount of sugar depending on how sweet you like your beverages.

Besides being a lovely fragrant drink (and much better than Coca Cola or any other fizzy drinks), lemongrass has a host of health benefits. 

It's actually strange that we only use the white parts (near the roots) of the lemongrass and technically no leaves of the plant is used. I once saw Martin Yan, that famous Chinese chef on TV, do the unthinkable on one of his cooking shows. He sliced up the green leafy bits of the lemon grass instead of using the white stalks! Even chefs get it wrong! 

WedMD notes that lemongrass is useful for "digestive tract spasms, stomachache, high blood pressure, convulsions, pain, vomiting, cough, achy joints (rheumatism), fever, common cold, and exhaustion. It is also used to kill germs and as a mild astringent."

It goes on to say that lemongrass might help to "prevent the growth of some bacteria and yeast. Lemongrass also contains substances that are thought to relieve pain, reduce fever, stimulate the uterus and menstrual flow, and have antioxidant properties."

I do know that drinking this lemongrass beverage made me pee a whole lot more. It was probably flushing out my kidneys. 

The other effect I felt was that my menstruation cramps were reduced when I had my period (I drank the beverage about 2-3 times a week BEFORE my period. I don't recommend drinking cold drinks when you're having your period. Call me utterly traditional but I believe cold drinks as well as cold baths are no-no's if you want to preserve health.)

If you can get it, lemongrass liniment or oil is good for massage and muscle pain. I have a bottle of lemongrass oil for those aches and pains that sometimes assail me if I've been hunched over the laptop too long. 

Do not confuse lemongrass or serai with the other mosquito-busting plant from the same family. Both look the same - long and tall grass-like leaves. I have both plants in my garden. 

I also read that lemongrass is good for getting rid of uric acid as well as excess fats and toxins. Plus because it's so good at detoxification, if you have problem skin with acne, drinking lemongrass will help you clear the skin issues up. 

And finally, everyone loves a herb that helps battle cancer - yeah, lemongrass contains anti-cancer properties. 

So there you have it - the wonders of lemongrass in a drink that's far healthier than guzzling Coke. 

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