October 17th, 2007
A new food discovery that I have made while in Peru is Hierba luisa, a grass-like plant that tends to grow easily on the coast of Northern Peru. I bought a box of Hierba luisa tea at the market because I didn’t know what it was and I wanted to try it. It has a strong lemon aroma and taste, almost like lemon-heads candy. Then when I started working at Otra Cosa, the couple that started OC have Hierba luisa growing in their garden. It’s such a distinctive, amazing herb. Here in Peru they cut off the leaves and steep it in hot water for tea. The research that I was able to compile is that it’s the same plant as the lemongrass used in Asian cuisines, except the bottom two inches of the hard stem is used for cooking instead of the leaves. I don’t really understand why the leaves are not used, because in Peru, that’s the most popular part. I have yet to see people dig up their lemongrass plants and use the stem, they just trim the leaves on the plant.
Lemongrass has some different species within the genus, one is used for citronella production and another is for making geraniol oil for the perfume industry. Lemongrass has many medicinal properties such as helping with arthritis, stress and stomach problems. It is high in anti-oxidants as well.
I was honored to be asked to create a cocktail for our volunteer coordinator’s birthday party at Otra Cosa. I thought it would only be fitting to use this popular plant in a different way. I’m happy to say that it was a big hit with the Peruvians and the extranjeros. I thought I’d share the recipe for you to try.
This cocktail is subtle with the lemongrass but has a nice kick to it with fresh ginger. I really like the presentation when you put it in the blender. Feel free to change the quantities of lemongrass or ginger for your own personal mix.
for 2 servings
1/2″ slice of peeled ginger, roughly chopped
5 blades of lemongrass (about 10 inches long)
3 Tbl sugar, raw is preferred
3 fl oz water
2 fl oz rum (or more)
4 fl oz agua con gas (like perrier or something)
a dash of cinnamon
1. Place the ginger, lemongrass, sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
2. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
3. Let the syrup cool to room temperature and strain out the ginger and lemongrass.
4. Place the syrup, run and carbonated water in a blender and pulse for about 5 seconds, or until it is nice and frothy.
5. Pour into your favorite cocktail glass and decorate with cinnamon.
Any extra syrup can be saved for later in an airtight container, refrigerated.