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Vietnamese coriander is a leafy herb with green leaves with the occasional chestnut-maroon colored streak about mid-leaf. The stems of Vietnamese coriander are slim, light green or red in color and they have a similar structure to cilantro. The flavor of this perennial herb is similar to cilantro with a spicy taste followed by a bit of a lemon zing. Vietnamese coriander is best when consumed young and fresh as older leaves can develop a tough texture and bitter flavor.
Vietnamese coriander is available year-round with a peak season in the summer.
Vietnamese coriander is also known as Vietnamese cilantro, more popularly as Rau Ram in Vietnam, but it is also referred to as daun kesum in Malaysia, or laksa leaf. It is also called Vietnamese mint, hot mint, and Phak Phai in other parts of the region. It is botanically classified as Persicaria odorata, though it is also known under the synonym Polygonum odoratum. In Southeast Asian cooking, Vietnamese coriander is often used interchangeably with mint and cilantro.
The essential oil from Vietnamese coriander contains several compounds for aroma, such as aldehydes like decanol, and dodecanol, and compounds for flavor, such as alpha humulene and beta caryophyllene, which are sesqueterpines. These two types of terpines have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and analgesic (pain relieving) properties. Vietnamese coriander also serves as a digestive aid and has anti-diarrhea properties.
Vietnamese coriander is most often used fresh in salads or paired with duck, an often in dishes made with boiled duck eggs. Vietnamese coriander is widely used in the cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, most often in fish dishes. The strong scent and flavor of the . Vietnamese coriander leaves are used whole in curries, soups and noodle dishes. It can be used as a substitute for mint or cilantro in a variety of recipes. For a variation on a Vietnamese dish, mix chopped Vietnamese coriander with shredded chicken and toss with lemon juice, salt and hot chili pepper paste. Store Vietnamese coriander in plastic in the refrigerator for up to a week.
In Malaysia, Vietnamese coriander is a staple in a few dishes like laksa, a fish soup made two ways (with tamarind or coconut milk) and ikan asam pedas, which literally translates to ‘hot and sour fish’. In the eastern part of Malaysia is a town called Penang, which has become synonymous with the dish ‘penang laksa’, which uses Rau Ram as an essential ingredient. In Laos, Vietnamese coriander is a main ingredient in their national dish, Larb, a mince-meat salad.
Vietnamese coriander is easily propagated by placing fresh stems in water, allowing them to sprout roots. They can be planted in soil or continued indoors. The plant is native to Southeast Asia. It grows best in tropical and subtropical climates, where the weather doesn’t get below freezing. Vietnamese coriander is a perennial, but it would need to be grown indoors in any area that isn’t considered tropical. Summer conditions are ideal in the United States and Europe.