Keep On The Grass – The Power of Lemongrass
The small kingdom of Cambodia sits at the very heart of South East Asia. Bordered by Thailand and Laos to her North and Vietnam to the south, Cambodia may have a strong Khmer heritage all of her own, but her cuisine can not help but be influenced by her larger neighbors, making Khmer cuisine some of the best fusion food in the region.
The subtle flavors of fresh herbs from Vietnam and Laos enhance Cambodian soups and broths while rich coconut and fiery ginger add a hint of ‘Thai’ that is unmistakable. Combine these fresh tastes and aromas Cambodia’s very own fishy paste ‘prahock’ and your taste buds are in for an adventure that is unmistakably South East Asian.
As with all South East Asian food, Khmer cuisine relies on a few key ingredients to provide the big flavors. Chile, saw tooth coriander, fresh pepper, ginger, lime, galangang and of course lemongrass are vital for producing the sweet and sour, spicy and powerful taste that make the regions cuisine some of the best on the planet and for a hungry cyclist, of all these flavors perhaps lemongrass is a favorite. Its aromatic citrus flavors are unmistakable and when cutting through rich coconut curries or adding subtle undertones to soups and hot pots but for the people of Cambodia consuming lemongrass is not just about good taste. As a developing nation with a tragic recent history, the majority Cambodians don’t have access to healthcare and modern medicine, determining that their diet is as much about prevention and cure of illness as it is nutrition.
And that is why lemongrass is so often on the menu. Believed to originate from India, lemongrass has been proven to reduce muscle spasms and boost energy levels. It is prescribed to prevents cramp and disperse lactic acid, all perfect for tropical cycling when the legs are tired and the electrolytes are pouring. It is packed with anti-fungal properties perfect for curing ‘cyclist foot’ or any other nasty fungus growing in the lycra. An effective skin toner lemongrass helps to dilate our blood vessels improving blood flow making it a local cure for every cyclist nightmare – the dreaded piles!
For post ride recovery lemongrass also aids the regeneration of connective tissues and essential oils extracted from this humble herb help us recover from illness by boosting our glandular and digestive systems. Legend has it that Khmer warriors of the ancient kingdom of Angkor rubbed their bodies in lemongrass oil to prevent injury during battle, and although I’m not suggesting we all lather ourselves with lemongrass before taking on the traffic, I urge you to dust of your wok and start cooking with this magical Asian ingredient. Lemongrass will not only improve your health through cold winter months but also provide a warming exotic flavour on those long those long cold winter nights.
Click here for a tasty Vietnamese clam recipe