Yia Vang Hands Us The Secret To Cooking With Lemongrass - Exclusive

Yia Vang isn't shy about sharing where he got the culinary know-how that earned him a James Beard Award nomination. His dad taught him the art of butchering; his mom passed on the purple sticky rice, eggplant dip, and variations of most of the other dishes you'll find on Union Hmong Kitchen's menu. His love for lemongrass is also familial.

"My mom grows lemongrass in her garden, and every year she grows a bunch of lemongrass for us," Vang explained in a recent exclusive interview with Mashed. But it's not just his mom who depends on the herb.

"Every time I chop lemongrass and I smell that smell ... with the mix of ginger, it takes me back to my grandma's kitchen ... Grandma would take ginger and lemongrass, and she'll put it in her soup," Vang remembered. "Lemongrass is the base of a lot of our pho that we make. It starts out as lemongrass and beef bones." He went on to share how the versatile ingredient makes it into much more of his cooking than his restaurant's pho.

How to use every part of lemongrass

You'd be cheating yourself if you only used lemongrass for soups. "After harvesting it ... you break it into three parts," Yia Vang explained to Mashed. "The lower third and the top third, it's stalky, so you can use that for a lot of soups, braising." Vang suggests freezing those parts for soups and stocks, but the middle section? That's "a little more tender," Vang said. "You can chop that up, and put it in different kinds of sauce."

No need to limit yourself to savory preparations, either. "Lemongrass, if you smash it ... it smells like Fruit Loops, no joke," Vang said. "There's a sweeter part to lemongrass too. Sometimes, they use it for dessert, or you can use it for a tea."

The actual tea-making process couldn't be simpler, and Vang says that it's great for when you're under the weather. "When you're sick ... take a bunch of lemongrass, take some ginger, and a little honey, and you steep it in some water to make this lemongrass ginger tea, and you can slowly sip on that," the chef suggested. "My mom does that. It's got that medicinal side to it."

Follow Yia Vang on Instagram for more cooking inspiration. Yia Vang's new show, "Feral," premieres Monday, November 28, on the Outdoor Channel.