Ginger Lemongrass Drink
Xả gừng literally translates to lemongrass and ginger. I love lemongrass, and the flavor it imparts to the drink is very pleasant and refreshing on a hot day.
Lemongrass (xả) is very common in Vietnamese cuisine. It is considered a mild diuretic, tonic and stimulant. Lemongrass is typically sold in packs of 5 stalks, and can be quite expensive. Last year, I asked Lulu whether we could grow it at home, and in response he planted 4 "bushes". They are doing quite well, and since it is a perennial, we keep getting fresh stalks. If you're planning on cooking a lot of Asian cuisine, consider investing in some lemongrass.
Yields: 62-1/2 cups superfine sugar, to taste
5 cups water
1/4 cup palm sugar
1 quart ice cubes
4 stalks lemongrass, + extra for garnish
2 chunks ginger, about 3 inches
1/4 cup crystallized candied ginger, cut in half
For the lemongrass: Wash the lemongrass. Remove all the white powder from the leaves and also a few outer leaves. Cut the stalks in half and crush them with the back of a chef's knife. Cut the remaining stalk into extremely thin slices using a chef's knife. In a mortar and pestle, grind the thin slices of lemongrass, then transfer and mix everything using a mini food processor. It should turn into a fine moist powder. Set aside.
For the ginger: Clean the ginger, carefully removing any dirt. You don't have to peel it. Thinly slice both chunks. Set aside.
For the lemongrass water: Combine the water and lemongrass powder. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Filter through a fine sieve.
For the caramel syrup: In a sauce pan, melt the sugar without any water over high heat. It's important to carefully watch the sugar; as soon as the edges of the pan start caramelizing, immediately lower the heat to medium-low. Gently jiggle the saucepan in circles. Do not use a spoon! Lower the heat to the lowest setting when there are only a few remaining non-caramelized pieces. Don't let the sugar get dark brown or you'll get a burnt taste.
Assembly time: When all the sugar is an amber color, remove from the heat, pause for about a minute (be careful of splattering when the water is added), then slowly add the boiling lemongrass water, palm sugar, fresh ginger and candied ginger. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Bring back to a full boil then let simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from the stove and cool completely.
Serve in tall glasses with ice; stir well and garnish with a stalk of lemongrass.
You can find lemongrass and palm sugar in most Asian stores. If you don't have any, you can always replace them with lime juice and regular sugar.
I like making the caramel first to give a nice amber color to the drink. If you don't mind a lighter color, just make a simple syrup by dissolving the sugar in about 2 cups of water; bring to a boil and simmer for about 2 minutes.
I prefer using superfine sugar. It's a fine-grained sugar and it dissolves much more quickly than the regular one.
You can strain the liquid right before serving if you want the lemongrass to infuse for a long time.
Published By: on August 27, 2009.