Rau Ram: The Vietnamese Coriander
- Jul 30, 2016
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One of my favorite herbs is the Vietnamese Coriander, not only because of its unique smell and flavor, but most especially because it brings back a lot of good memories from my childhood days. “Rau ram” was a common sight in my mother’s backyard garden. We would eat it raw, to perk up Vietnamese soups and salads. It is one of those wonderful herbs that give Vietnamese cuisine its truly distinct flavor.
In other Asian countries, rau ram is also referred to as Vietnamese cilantro, Cambodian mint, Laksa leaves and many other names. Unfortunately, this one is not quite popular in Philippine cuisine. I remember a Filipino neighbor who tried it once and did not like it at all. After several tries, she eventually acquired the taste for it and kept coming back for more.
I also used to hate it, when I was a child. Its slightly pungent smell and taste made my stomach churn a bit. As I grew up, I became more accustomed to its taste. Some say that it has a coriander-like lemony smell. I think it has a vey distinct smell and flavor of its own , and if you like using coriander in your dishes, you will definitely want to try this for that uniquely different twist. The Vietnamese people love to add it as a favorite herb spice to another popular local delicacy, the fertilized duck egg (which we call “balut” in the Philippines).
It grows very well under tropical weather conditions. It can also be suitable for growing indoors, as it grows well in containers, whether under partial or full sunlight. It requires a continuously moist ground, as it has the tendency to wilt easily if it lacks water. The plant can be propagated from cuttings and with proper constant trimming, it will grow very lush and bushy.
While it is not a mint variety, it can be as invasive. I made the mistake of planting a few stalks of rau ram together with my rosemary in the same container pot. In a few weeks, the rosemary died while this herb practically occupied the entire container.