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Ono, You Know

The Lemongrass Grows Greener on the Other Side

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
July 15, 2012

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Happy Sunday, Ono readers! What if I told you I was craving grass? You would think I’m crazy, right?

Well, don’t be too quick to judge. Yes, I’m craving grass, but not just any type of grass. Enter lemongrass, also known as cymbopogon. Whole lemongrass is not easily chewable, so if you choose to consume raw lemongrass, it’s highly recommended to remove the stalk first. Yet, we don’t have to worry about that because we won’t be eating it raw this time around.

Instead, this week, I ventured to a few of my favorite Ono, You Know establishments known for some irresistible dishes, which center around this edible grass. Perfect for the summer months, lemon-grass enhances any dish by adding a strong citrus flavor, and it’s commonly used in the preparation of poultry, seafood, beef and fish in many Asian cuisines — yum!

So, without further ado, let’s explore this realm of lemongrass and see if the grass really does grow greener on the other side.

Chai’s Island Bistro

Chai’s Island Bistro

Chai’s Island Bistro’s Thai Style Oxtail Soup ($20 a la carte) Photo courtesy of Chai’s Island Bistro

Celebrity chef Chai Chaowasaree captivates the appetites of diners with his alluring and contemporary Pacific Rim cuisine. As an award-winning chef, Chaowasaree draws in the dinner crowd from 4 to 10 p.m. with decadent offerings from his menu, in addition to live entertainment nightly.

Here at Chai’s Island Bistro, each entree is refreshing to the palate and filled with a plethora of flavors, including lemongrass. Lemongrass is an herb that can be dried and powdered, or used fresh.

And according to Chaowasaree, this distinct flavor is featured in his Thai Style Oxtail Soup ($20 a la carte entree) with lemongrass, galangal and Hawaiian chili water with a hint of fresh lemon.

“On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights I’m also offering this soup as part of a special five-course dinner,” Chaowasaree explains.

This elaborate five-course menu ($40 per person for dinner and $15 per person for wines) boasts a spread of Gravlax Salmon Roulade with Cream Cheese and Crab Meat, Pork Tenderloin Sate’ with Thai Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Salad, and Poached Pear Salad with Rainbow Vegetables and Raspberry Vinaigrette. Then have your pick from three incredible entrees: Thai Style Spicy Lemongrass Oxtail Soup, Chicken Roulade with Roasted Leek Gravy and Mashed Potato, or Seafood Tortellini with Lobster Reduction. Finally, end your meal on a sweet note with Heart Shape White Chocolate Amore Truffle.

Chai’s Island Bistro
Aloha Tower Marketplace
1 Aloha Tower Drive, Honolulu

Pho My Lien Vietnamese Restaurant

Sure, it’s obvious that Pho My Lien prides itself in its delicious bowls of pho, but don’t dismiss the other enticing items on its ever-expanding menu. Located in Westridge Shopping Center in Aiea, Pho My Lien has quickly become a family favorite. The husband-and-wife team of Tommy Dang and Lien Bui spearhead the restaurant and pride themselves on serving up authentic Vietnamese cuisine in a spacious and relaxing atmosphere.

While many loyal patrons have their tried-and-true favorites such as the ever-popular pho or Shrimp Fried Rice, others are gravitating to Spicy Lemongrass Chicken ($7.95).

This particular dish exudes a momentous amount of flavor, and Bui is quick to note its success with customers. With every bite you’ll notice how each ingredient complements the next, as Spicy Lemongrass Chicken showcases tender morsels of chicken doused in hoisin sauce, fish sauce and shoyu, and seasoned with just the right amount of lemongrass, garlic and onions. Paired with rice or noodles, it’s safe to say that Spicy Lemongrass Chicken has quickly become a favorite on my list.

So, the next time you find yourself craving the best in Vietnamese cuisine from Pho My Lien, be sure to work up an appetite — the portions are filling and too good to leave any leftovers.

Pho My Lien Vietnamese Restaurant
98-150 Kaonohi St., Suite B213-B

Keo’s Thai Cuisine

Tempt your taste buds with exotic Thai specialties at the one and only Keo’s Thai Cuisine. Amid the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, stumble upon this landmark restaurant on Kuhio Avenue where you can escape to an open air atmosphere and garden setting that highlights a lush array of fresh floral arrangements, and Thai statues and decor.

Owned and operated by Keo Sananikone, Keo’s Thai Cuisine is open nightly for dinner and capitalizes on freshness. Sananikone even operates a farm in the Mokuleia area, where he grows the majority of the vegetables found in his cuisine. So, expect nothing but the freshest of ingredients here — in fact, everything grown on the farm is organic and free of pesticides.

And although lemongrass is comprised of more than 55 species of grass, it’s an essential ingredient in Sananikone’s masterpieces.

Keo’s Thai Cuisine’s featured special is Spicy Lemongrass Soup, also known as Tom Yum. Choose to incorporate chicken ($4.50), shrimp ($4.95), seafood ($5.95) or vegetarian ($4.25) options into the eatery’s most popular soup, which combines fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, green onion, cilantro, mushrooms and lime juice. If you prefer mild, medium or hot spice, Keo’s can cater the soup to your liking.

Then if you’re craving something with a little more substance, opt for Spicy Scallops with Lemongrass and Peppers ($13.95), which consists of a stir-fried feast of savory scallops, along with flavorful lemongrass, peppers and garlic on a bed of chopped cabbage.

“This dish is considered medium spicy,” Sananikone explains. “It has a great fan base among our Thai and Vietnamese customers.”

Everything is served a la carte here, so be sure to order a side of rice if you wish.

Keo’s Thai Cuisine
2028 Kuhio Ave.