Fragrant herb is vital in Vietnamese cooking. It adds flavour, aroma and layer to your senses. It makes deadly simple and bland dishes become subtle beautiful.
To learn Vietnamese cooking, you must learn to use Vietnamese herbs along with rice cooking, fish sauce, cooking techniques and few other things. This post is going to share with just that.
The chart above are popular Vietnamese herbs.
The pink font area, are herbs and spices can be used to season food.
The black font area, are herbs can be used both to season and accompany food.
The green font area are table salad herbs or fragrant herbs.
When used herb for seasoning food, to retain the freshness and aroma we only add herbs at the very end of the cooking process. We even turning off the heat first. High heat would ruin herbs’ colour and fragrant.
How to use Vietnamese herbs
We use herbs to give final touch to cooked dishes and to accompany main dishes, the later are raw herbs having its space in dinning table, we call it rau thơm. Rau means vegetable and thơm means fragrant. If you are wondering why rau means vegetable? It’s because Vietnamese people use the word rau for both vegetables and fragrant herbs .It’s obvious that people named it as thơm for its magical fragrant to distinguish its from other vegetables.
So there are two ways of using Vietnamese herbs but their combinations are unlimited. When you are familiar with the basic you could go and experiment yourself. In this hub, I will only introduce some simple and timeless combinations to make your first step easier.
Pork: spring onion
Fish: dill, spring onion
Clam, oyster and alike: Vietnamese mint, spring onion
Duck& muscovy Duck: sawtooth herbs, spring onion
Chicken: lime leaves, Vietnamese mint
Congee: perilla, spring onion
tofu: spring onion, sawtooth herbs (maybe)
stir-fried dish: spring onion +
in cooked dish, spring onion goes with almost dishes, alone or with other herbs.
duck: Thai basil, sawtooth herb
Goat: Thai basil
In table salad, lettuce and coriander are the base, they go with almost everything.
Hành hoa – scallion
Hanh hoa – spring onion/scallion.
The mighty garnishing-seasoning herb, goes with almost every dish: noodle, congee, stir-fry, sauté, stew and you name it.
Rau mùi – coriander/cilantro
If scallion goes with almost every cook dishes, cilantro is the core in the table salad.
Húng lũi – spearmint
People often mistake spearmint and peppermint. They look and smell quite similar only that spearmint’s leaf is rounder at the top, less teeth, less sharp and has milder aroma.
In Vietnam, spearmint is more popular and goes with most dishes, especially fatty dish as boiled pork.
Interested fact: we brought spearmint from Vietnam and grew it here. After few years, it turned to peppermint.
Húng chó – Thai basil
Húng chó/húng quế/rau é/é quế – Thai basil/Asian basil.
Though not as popular as cilantro and spearmint, it has its irreplaceable in many dishes especially duck vermicelli noodle soup, black pudding, venison and goat. In the South, people also use Thai basil in side-dish for pho.
Rau răm – Vietnamese mint
Rau răm – Vietnamese mint / Vietnamese coriander.
It goes very well with delicate or fishy dishes. A irreplaceable seasoning herb in clam noodle; missing it, the dish is only half good.
Rau thì là – dill
seasoning herb, mainly
Thì là – dill.
Like fennel, dill goes so well with fish and seafood.
- A strange but well combination, dilled and mince pork in fried pork-balls.
- Seasoning canh sắn – cassava canh.
Mùi tàu – sawtooth herb
Mùi tàu – sawtooth herb
It goes well with noodle especially pho and bamboo shoot noodle soup.
Tía tô – Perilla
Tía tô – Perilla/shiso(Japanese)/beefsteak
is irreplaceable in canh khoai sọ – jam canh and Cháo tía tô – perilla congee. It’s also known for anti-cold effect.
Kinh giới – Vietnamese balm
Kinh giới – Vietnamese balm, green perila.
It goes well with bún riêu-crab noodle, bún ốc – snail noodle and bún đầu mắm tôm.