Vietnamese Coriander

If you are a lover of all things hot and spicy, Vietnamese coriander can be added to your arsenal of heat-generating flavours.

Vietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata) has all the flavour of coriander and then some. The flavour has a refreshing lemony note followed by a hot, biting, peppery aftertaste.

Unlike normal coriander that bolts in the heat, Vietnamese coriander thrives in the heat. It will grow through summer producing lots of narrow, pointed green spicy leaves for you to use in your cooking.

Vietnamese coriander grows naturally in Southeast Asia, where it is known as rau răm. It was taken by Vietnamese emigrants to France in the 1950s and the United States in the 1970s.

READ MORE: Learn how to grow coriander.

How to grow:

True to its tropical nature, this coriander will grow best in rich, fertile soil that drains well. It needs consistently moist soil as it tends to wilt if the soil dries out. Plant yours in a position that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.

Another clue to its nature is its common name of ‘hot mint’. Like mint, Vietnamese coriander is low-growing and spreads quickly. If you need to limit its spread, grow it in a container or hanging basket. Keep trimming the plant to encourage new growth and to prevent older stems from becoming woody.

How to use:

Pick the young, tender leaves that have the most flavour. In Vietnam and Cambodia, this coriander is often used on sandwiches, mixed into salads as well as used in soups and stews. It withstands cooking better than coriander and adds a subtle flavour to cooked vegetables and meat. It combines well with garlic, ginger and lemon grass. If you like to play with fire, make a chicken and cabbage salad flavoured with Vietnamese coriander, chillies and lime juice.

READ MORE: Serve these mealies with coriander sour cream at your next braai.

How to preserve:

You can dry or freeze the leaves of Vietnamese coriander. To freeze, remove the leaves from the stem and lay on baking trays in the freezer. Once frozen, pack the leaves loosely into freezer bags and expel as much air as possible.

To dry, place the leaves on newspaper, or any other paper that absorbs moisture. Leave them in a cool room for about three weeks until the leaves are crisp to touch. Label and store them in a paper bag or container.

The Gardener