Grilled meats with lemongrass are rather less common on the street than a similar looking dish using only garlic and pepper. Still, the lemongrass adds a special flavour that makes this recipe a bit more interesting than what you will normally find. This recipe works well with pork or chicken, and could also be used with beef.
The English name for this herb comes easily from the lemony aroma it gives off, especially when cooked. Along with fresh lime juice, it is the key ingredient in the ever-popular Tom Yum soup, as well as with many other Thai dishes. The oil that gives the plant its aroma is supposed to be a good cure for upset stomach and indigestion. Lemongrass juice, or tea, is a popular herbal drink in Thai traditional medicine. The tea also makes for a natural insect repellent that can be used to water house plants to discourage bugs. Since only the white bulbous base of the stalk is used in cooking, the tea is an excellent way to make use of the rest of the lemongrass stalks.
This recipe marks a significant departure for me. Not only is it my first Khmer / Cambodian dish, but this is also the first recipe I've had to "reverse engineer" from a couple of tastings of the dish. Although I've been to Cambodia several times now, I haven't had many opportunities to sample Khmer cuisine.
The same stalls which sell galangal usually also carry lemongrass which is called ta-krai in Thai. The two end up together in a number of recipes. At the wholesale market, you will see large bundles of lemongrass on sale, bound together with string or strips of dried banana tree bark. The stall owners will sell the bundles whole for less than a dollar. You may also spot smaller bundles with just a few stalks of lemongrass bound together with a few slices of galangal and some kaffir lime leaves.