• Chicken salad with cabbage and Vietnamese mint (goi ga). (Alan Benson)Source: Alan Benson
Let's explore the herb-y additions you may stumble across southeast Asian cooking and eating!
Luke Nguyen

27 Sep 2018 - 10:58 AM  UPDATED 10 Jan 2019 - 2:45 PM

Vietnamese cooking is renowned for its use of fresh herbs. Look for them in your local Vietnamese or Asian market, as there is really no substitute for their unique flavour and aroma. To keep the herbs fresh, wrap the herbs in a damp cloth and keep refrigerated.

Here is a list of essential herbs with descriptions and their medicinal qualities. 

Sawtooth herb/sawtooth coriander
Vietnamese: Ngò Gai
Tasting notes: Strong coriander flavour
Culinary uses: Eaten raw - used in soups and salads
Medicinal: Used in tea to stimulate appetite, soothes stomach pain, improves digestion

Rice paddy herb
Vietnamese: Ngò Om 
Tasting notes: Citrus with mild cumin flavour
Culinary uses: Sour soups, salads, compliments dishes containing cumin.
Medicinal: Antibacterial qualities 

Combining mustard greens, sawtooth coriander and rice paddy herb, here's about a bowl of purple rice noodles with corn-wine soup.


Spearmint herb/green mint  

Vietnamese: Húng Lui, Húng Dũi  
Tasting notes: Spearmint and lime character
Culinary uses: Eaten raw. Found in most common herb and salad plates
Medicinal: Used in tea as treatment for stomach ache, colds and flu and promotes digestion

Perilla/shiso leaf
Vietnamese: Tía Tô   
Tasting notes: Earthy, bold and musky – a mint/basil combination
Culinary uses: Eaten raw in a variety of soups, salads and meat dishes
Medicinal uses: Used in tea for soothing properties and in steam baths for better skin 

Vietnamese balm/Vietnamese lemon mint 
Vietnamese: Kinh Gioi  
Tasting notes: Basil with hints of lemon citrus and lemongrass 

Culinary uses: Eaten raw in a variety of soups and meat dishes and on herb plates 

Medicinal: Used in tea for soothing properties and in steam baths for better skin  

Vietnamese mint 

Vietnamese: Rau Răm 
Tasting notes: Spicy and peppery 

Culinary uses: Commonly eaten raw in salads, in duck-related dishes and on most common herb plates  

Medicinal: Used to treat indigestion, stomach aches, ulcers, wounds and swelling. Believed to have the ability to reduce fertility

Perilla, mint as well as Vietnamese mint come together in these pork and king prawn lettuce wraps. Get the recipe right here.

Bitter herb
Vietnamese name: Rau Dang
Common culinary name: Bitter mint
Tasting Notes: Bitter character
Culinary uses: Add raw to hot pot dishes or steamboats and noodle soups
Medicinal uses: Treat fever, joint pains, & inflammations

Garlic chives/Chinese chives
Vietnamese: He
Tasting notes: Garlicky and grassy
Culinary uses: Rice paper rolls, stir fries, raw in noodle soups
Medicinal: Antiseptic, aids digestion and helps promote the flow of blood

Asian basil  

Vietnamese: Rau Que, Húng Que  

Tasting notes: sweet / spice, anise / licorice
Culinary uses: Eaten raw. Smelling this basil is to be reminded of a piping hot bowl of pho noodle soup and in many common herb plates
Medicinal: Antibacterial qualities, leaves are crushed to a paste to treat small cuts

Fish herb/fish mint 
Vietnamese: Diep Cá

Tasting notes: Strong acquired taste for its fishy character
Culinary uses: Used in bold fishy flavored dishes, very popular in dishes of grilled meats, fish and noodle soups.  

Medicinal: Treats stomach aches, indigestion and swellings. Leaves are crushed to a paste to cure insect bites, rashes and itching

Water spinach/moring glory 
Vietnamese: Rau Muong
Culinary uses: As a vegetable, stir-fried or in soups
Medicinal:  Treatment of bites and high in antioxidants 

Betel leaves
Vietnamese: La lot
Tasting notes: bitter character with sweet aromatics
Culinary uses: wrapped around minced beef and grilled, stir fries, eaten raw
Medicinal: Juice of betel leaves with honey - serve as a good tonic
Leaves soaked in mustard oil and warmed, can be applied to the chest area to relieve cough and difficulties in breathing. Also used as an antiseptic

Vietnamese: Rau dên 
Culinary uses:  Use like spinach in salads or as a cooked vegetable

Chrysanthemum greens
Vietnamese: Tan ô
Tasting notes:  Bitter, strong flavour
Culinary uses:  In soups, cooked or raw, and sautéed
Medicinal:  Rich in vitamin B

Mustard leaves

Vietnamese: cai xanh
Culinary uses:  Eaten raw as a salad or cooked
Medicinal:  High in vitamin A 

Go hot with this seafood hot pot recipe right here.


Elephant ear stem/stalk
Vietnamese: Bac Ha
Tasting notes:  Mild grassy flavoured spongy stems
Culinary uses:  Stems add texture and absorb the flavours of soups and stir-fries.  Co
Medicinal: Good source of iron, phosphorus, and zinc

Bitter melon
Vietnamese: khô qua
Tasting notes:  Similar texture to a cucumber though very bitter 
Culinary uses:  Can be eaten green or when it ripens it is often cooked with meat or made into a soup
Medicinal:  Beneficial for stomach related disorders  

Green mango
Vietnamese:  Xoai Song
Tasting notes:  Tart, crisp and refreshing with underlying mango flavour 
Culinary uses:  Used in salads and eaten with salt & pounded chilli as a snack
Medicinal: Good source of fibre, rich in vitamin A and vitamin C

Vietnamese:  Xu hào 
Culinary uses:  Can be eaten raw, sliced or diced in salads, sautéed, stir-fried or braised.
Tasting notes:  Similar texture and taste to broccoli stem with a hint of mustard
Medicinal:  High in fibre, source of vitamin C and potassium 

Banana flower/banana blossom
Vietnamese: Bap Chuoi
Culinary uses:  Remove outer leaves and sliced or diced and used in salad, stews, stir-fries.
Medicinal: valuable source of vitamin B, vitamin C, and potassium

The Chefs' Line does Vietnamese
Beef phở (Vietnamese noodle soup)

This phở is a combination of many tips from family and friends. I use gravy beef – my dad’s touch – for sweetness. The shrimp paste and lemongrass are the X-factor additions, and the red dates and daikon reflect my Chinese heritage, and also enhance the soup’s sweetness.

Chicken phở with soft-cooked egg

Phở varies dramatically from the north of Vietnam to the south. Every family and every street vendor has a unique understanding of what phở should taste like, what it should be garnished with and how it should be eaten. There is no right or wrong.

Coconut and galangal crème caramel (bánh flan)

I love adding spice to my desserts to mellow out the sweetness, and I’ve found adding a touch of galangal to my flan really enhances the creamy coconut flavour.

Pork and king prawn lettuce wrap

This is how my dad likes his Vietnamese rice paper rolls - without the rice paper! This version is so fresh and crunchy, the flavours are not masked by rice paper. Don't be tempted to overfill the rolls!