Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Get to Know Your Asian Herbs

I almost titled this blog post, Get to Know Your Vietnamese Herbs but realized quickly that
 many Asian countries value these herbs.  I was introduced to all the herbs below through Vietnamese cuisine.  Both of my parents were born and grew up in Vietnam even though we are ethnically Chinese.  We grew, sold and ate these greens daily.

Fresh herbs are essential to Vietnamese cuisine; their flavors and perfumes enliven
countless foods. Raw leaves are tucked into rice paper rolls, dropped into hot soups, mixed into cool salads and noodle bowls, stir-fried other vegetables and meats.

(Click on the names of the herbs below to see more information on them.)

Spearmint is must for pho as well as fresh Vietnamese summer rolls.  Beware of these very prolific plants that grow anywhere.  Their very large roots require containment in a large pot for the best harvest.  

Called Ram Rau in Vietnamese, this herb is used is many, many dishes.  It is a weed in the tropics and very invasive.  Grow in a container with access to lots of fresh water, do not allow to dry out.  It is hard to find seeds for this plant.  Visit an Asian market and grow this herb from cuttings.

Garlic chives are great stir fried in many different dishes.  My favorite way to eat them is in an omelette.  Very easy to grow from seeds and starts, needs no special care.  They are essential in pot stickers and/or dumplings of all sorts.

This fragrant herb is delicious when stir fried with clams and black bean sauce, my dad's specialty.  Easy to care for and easy to grow.

Another delicious herb used in pho and noodle bowls. It is a slow growing, very tender annual and must be kept away from frost.  Beware the spiky seed heads when they flower.  Eat only the leaves and slice them into thin ribbons.

This adorable plant is a garden thug, grow in containers to keep it under control.  Used in many, many dishes, can be eaten raw or cooked.  My mom uses this in summer rolls.


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