Tiny rau ram leaves emerge as winter comes to an end.

Tiny rau ram leaves emerge as winter comes to an end.

Vietnamese coriander is an herb  widely used throughout Southeast Asia. Many immigrants either grow the herb, or buy it at the Asian market. Imagine my surprise when, a few years ago, I saw this herb for sale at a local nursery in town. It is now readily available to grow on your own.

Vietnamese coriander is commonly referred to as rau ram (in Vietnamese, it's pronounced like "zow zam"), laksa leaf, or hot mint. It is related to the knotweed family, thus its botanical name at one time was Polyganum odoratum, but now it is named under genus  Persicaria odorata. Similar to the knotweed, rau ram can be weedy, especially if grown  in the right environment. The difference is that the roots are shallow , so that its growth is easy to control.

Persicaria odorata  is a perennial plant found in warm and damp climate. It is one of the easiest herbs to grow. To propagate, you  can place a stem cutting in a jar of water, and roots will form easily, or by root division. In the Fall, the plant can be dug up to bring indoors, or in our area, it can be left outside if mulched well during the cold months. Rau ram is a good plant to grow in a container as well. Keep the soil moist, and the plant out of prolonged direct sunlight .

Burgundy markings on leave

Burgundy markings on leave

The plant can grow to about a foot high, then it typically will begin to sprawl or spread out. The stems have many nodes, with leaves that are lance-shaped with burgundy marking resembling a  chevron (like stripes on a corporal's sleeves) in  the center. Only the leaves are used.  It is shredded or torn before added to a dish. Rau ram is eaten fresh or used as garnish.

The leaf has its own unique flavor and aroma. Some compared its taste to a mixture of coriander and mint, with a peppery bite. The best way is to bite into a leaf and be your own judge. Once you have eaten rau ram, it is impossible to mistake it for another herb.

As mentioned, rau ram is widely used in Southeast Asia. Leaves can be sprinkled on a bowl of soup or porridge, mixed with eggs, chicken, and salads.  It adds a unique and tasty flavor to bland dishes.

There are many variations of  Vietnamese chicken salad with rau ram. We all have our taste preferences, so add a little rau ram at a time until you get the perfect balance for you.

Leaves grow from multiple nodes on the stem.

Leaves grow from multiple nodes on the stem.

It is almost time to get out and garden again. Consider growing this herb for its interesting leaves and flavor.

Further reading: Exotic Herbs by Carole Saville 1997

Hue Chicken Salad

There are no measurements for this recipe. It is prepare according to taste. Add a little seasoning to taste.

  • Chicken
  • Pepper
  • Salt Sugar
  • Onion
  • Lime juice
  • Chillis
  • Rau ram
  • Vegetable oil

You would need to have shredded steamed or boiled chicken. When chicken cools, add a little pepper, salt and sugar, and sweet or regular onion that has been sliced paper thin. Mix it up, then add freshly squeezed lime juice, fresh chopped chilies, rau ram and a little vegetable oil.

Toss the mixture, and continue to taste to your liking. Serve on top of butter lettuce.