The Vietnamese coriander or Vietnamese cilantro is still considered exotic, despite its outstanding culinary qualities. In the Southeast Asian cuisine, the spice herb, also known as Rau Ram, is almost indispensable in the kitchen. In the traditional medicine of Vietnam and Malaysia, the Vietnamese coriander is also used as a medicinal plant and should alleviate indigestion and skin diseases.
Profile of Vietnamese cilantro:
Scientific name: Persicaria odorata
Plant family: polygonaceae, knotweed family (Polygonaceae)
Other names: Vietnamese mint, Vietnamese coriander, Cambodian mint, hot mint, laksa leaf, Rau Ram, praew leaf
Sowing time / Planting time: spring
Flowering period: July – September
Harvest time: May – October
Useful plant parts: leaves
Location: sunny to partially shaded
Soil quality: very moist and nutrient-rich soils
These information are for temperate climate!
Use as a medicinal herb: flatulence, indigestion, acne, blemishes, bacterial infections
Use as aromatic herb: soups, Asian dishes, chicken and beef dishes, fish, salads
Plant characteristics and classification of Vietnamese cilantro
Origin and occurrence of the Vietnamese coriander
The areas of Southeast Asia, especially Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, are referred to as the home of the Vietnamese coriander. It is a typical tropical plant that needs moist locations. Since the plant has only low claims, it is also found wild in Malaysia and parts of southern China.
Due to the numerous Vietnamese migration movements in the middle of the 20th century, the plant succeeded in both North America and Western Europe, which eventually explains its name.
Plant order of the Vietnamese coriander
The Vietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata) belongs to the knotweed family and has systematically no similarities with the common cilantro. Well-known representatives of this plant are the sorrel that we know as a wild herb or the buckwheat that is often used in the kitchen. In the narrower classification, the Vietnamese coriander counts directly to the leading genus of Persicaria, which are represented by over 150 species worldwide.
In addition to Persicaria odorata, the Vietnamese coriander is also often listed under the botanical name Polygonum odoratum. There is currently no specific botanical classification, which is why both names are theoretically correct. From a plant anatomical point of view, however, the name Persicaria odorata should rather be chosen because the Vietnamese coriander belongs to the genus Persicaria.
Look and characteristics of the Vietnamese coriander
The Vietnamese coriander is a perennial plant that reaches heights of growth between 20 and 50 cm (8 and 20 in). The roots of the herb are tightly branched in the ground, reddish to slightly brownish colored and rather flat anchored.
The leaves of the Vietnamese coriander have a characteristic appearance. The lanceolate to tapered leaves are mint green in color and show a sickle-shaped, reddish discoloration in the middle. In young plants and rarely in adult plants, the discoloration may also be absent. The slightly yellowish leaf nerves run semicircular from leaf margin to leaf margin. The stems are reddish and have a round shape.
The flowers of the Vietnamese coriander usually protrude beyond the upper leaf area. The slightly pink to purple colored flowers show up mostly between mid-July to mid-September. Sultry summer favor or extend the flowering time sometimes. The hermaphrodite flowers are arranged in age-old flower branches. Each flower consists of five bracts and several stamens.
At the time of fruit ripening, the typical nut fruits develop from the flowers. The brownish to almost black seeds show a tapered shape. In our latitudes, however, the fruit ripeness remains. Unfortunately, there is currently insufficient information about the spread of the plant.
Vietnamese cilantro – cultivation and care
Even if the Vietnamese coriander actually comes from the southeast of Asia, it can usually cultivate easily in our latitudes. Once it has taken root in a location, it is very easy to care for and only needs a little more water than other plants.
The preferred location of the Vietnamese coriander is humid, warm and sunny to partially shaded places.
On the ground, the plant makes only few demands. However, Vietnamese coriander love moist and loose soils that are nutrient-rich and not too sandy. Commercially available potting soil is recommended for cultivation at home, which is best mixed with perlites or zeolites due to the high water requirement. These substrates can store moisture and release it back to the plant when needed.
Seeds are not offered in our latitudes, so a guide on how to seed Vietnamese cilantro seeds can not be given. In our latitudes, it is almost impossible for the flowering plants to even produce seeds, as the flowers are usually sterile. This may be due to the fact that Vietnamese cilantro needs certain pollinators, which ultimately causes fruit ripeness.
In Western Europe, only fresh plants can be purchased, which are cultivated by cuttings. The Vietnamese coriander can be easily multiplied by division. About 6 to 7 cm (3-4 in) long cuttings of the herb are cut, which are then raised in an organic potting compost. Simple plant pots are sufficient, since the roots of the herb do not extend very deep into the earth. Outdoor planting should not be considered due to the sensitivity to frost, unless the herb grows in a greenhouse, which guarantees temperatures of at least 10 ° C / 50 ° F even in summer.
Since Vietnamese cilantro is usually cultivated in pots, nutrients have to be added from time to time. The plants have a relatively high nutrient requirement. It is recommended to use a nitrogen-stressed, at best organic fertilizer every four to six weeks. Typical nutrient deficiencies are yellow leaf margins or fresh leaves, which – despite sufficient moisture – quickly lose their vitality.
One of the basic conditions for Vietnamese cilantro to flourish is sufficient moisture. The tropical herb is used to damp regions and does not tolerate long-lasting dryness. However, short-term dry periods of up to one day are well tolerated in most cases. However, as the leaves are hanging down, you should water as soon as possible.
Like most tropical plants, Vietnamese cilantro is not hardy. Although it tolerates very short-term freezing. For longer periods of frost, the plant is however to die. Between mid-October and the end of April, the Vietnamese coriander should therefore be wintered in a frost-free and rather warm place.
As soon as the plant has built up a bit of leaf mass, the leaves of the herb can be harvested all year round. Frequent harvesting generally promotes the growth of the entire plant. However, it is recommended to harvest only a few leaves of the plant in the winter days, as wintering periods usually also mean periods of stress.
Vietnamese cilantro and its use
Vietnamese cilantro as a kitchen herb
In our latitudes, the Vietnamese coriander is still relatively unknown. However, some traders now offer fresh plants, so that some gourmets have already come into contact with the herb. Especially for lovers of Asian cuisine, the plant is an absolute insider tip, especially since it is versatile.
The taste of Vietnamese coriander undoubtedly recalls the common coriander (Coriandrum sativum), although a bit milder. However, the herb still has a slight citrus note, is slightly bitter and peppery and impresses with a soft musk note. The aroma is sometimes even more varied than that of the common coriander.
Traditionally, the spice herb is mainly used in the kitchens of Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia. Tourists who had the opportunity to visit the south of Vietnam will almost certainly have come into contact with the plant known as Rau ram. The Vietnamese cilantro spice there glass noodle dishes, numerous salads, egg dishes, duck dishes, seasoning pastes and also fish dishes.
If you want to spice with this interesting herb, you should use this fresh and cut into small strips or chop. Although dried Vietnamese cilantro can also be processed in the kitchen, the aroma is not quite as intense anymore and sometimes a bit bitter. The leaves of the plant can be boiled in principle, but should be added if possible rather at the end of cooking or roasting. It is usually sufficient only small amounts of the herb to produce an intense aroma.
Vietnamese cilantro blends well with perilla and Asian basil varieties. It can also produce a very interesting aroma with fried garlic or freshly roasted onions.
If you would like to try the herb in the kitchen, you can always use it for all meals for which the common coriander is also used. Very tasty is it in coconut dishes, fish dishes, omelets or glass noodle salads.
Vietnamese cilantro as a medicinal herb
In the western naturopathy, the Vietnamese coriander is almost unknown. However, in Asian medicine, the herb is used for some ailments. In some Southeast Asian countries, the intake of the herb has a long tradition and is an integral part of herbal medicine.
Vietnamese cilantro can be used for these ailments and diseases
- bacterial infections
- general indigestion
- possibly liver diseases
- libido retardant
- liver protective
How and in what form the Vietnamese coriander is used can not be determined accurately. Presumably, the herb is mainly used as a spice in numerous dishes.
In the few studies available, it was found that it may be effective against bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes and Listeria monocytogenes. Especially against certain staphylococcal strains, extracts of the Vietnamese coriander seem to help. However, the study situation is very poor, so that further investigations appear necessary.
The Vietnamese coriander contains a variety of flavonoids, which may have a hepatoprotective effect. For example, studies have found that liver damage caused by long-term use of acetaminophen (better known as paracetamol) has been reduced. The same flavonoids probably also have a beneficial effect on digestion.
There are no records or risk ratings of the herb, which does not mean that none are present. Little is known about the actual effects, dosages and applications of the herb. However, it is used almost daily as a spice in many countries of Southeast Asia, where it is known as a natural remedy and has not yet emerged as a risk factor.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.
Buy Vietnamese cilantro – What to pay attention to?
As an exotic plant, Vietnamese cilantro is rarely available. However, some plant markets, which also offer herbal peculiarities, keep the spice herb in their assortments between April and August. Also in the herbal specialist trade as well as with some specialized on-line dealers the herb can be purchased.
When buying, you should make sure that the stems are strong and the leaves do not hang down. Otherwise, the plant is considered extremely stable. The price per plant is about 3-5 EUR/$.