Friday, March 23, 2012

Alien Ingredient #23: Rau Răm

After years of reading in my Vietnamese cookbooks about this magical herb called rau răm (Persicaria odorata), I finally stumbled across some at the market. Excitedly, I brought some of this herb that is also called Vietnamese Coriander back to the restaurant. You can tell from the Latin odorata and the common name coriander that this should be a fragrant herb à la cilantro or Thai basil. And according to my texts, rau răm is used as a fresh herb, often as a garnish, just as are cilantro and basil.

I have rarely been more underwhelmed by an herb in my entire life. I crushed a leaf and it smelled of nothing but crushed green leaf. I tasted it and it was totally blah, just like chickweed. Nothing but a vegetal chlorophyll flavor.

I'll try again if I ever see it again, but this was a total waste of time and money.

Vote: What is the point?


  1. but was it the real thing? as opposed to any old knotweed? I've read that the underside of the leaf is supposed to be reddish, and from the photo, it does not look like it... always the challenge when dealing with totally new ingredients... how does one know it is the real thing? it was harvested at the proper time? it is ripe... etc...

  2. I had been thinking the same thing. Though I have seen pictures on Vietnamese seed sites where the leaves are plain like the photo above, most of them have some reddish coloration. Certainly the stuff I pull out of my garden has reddish spots on it. So, I don't really know. And I will keep trying in the future.

  3. Wow.. I can't imagine not being blown away by the first taste of this.. the taste is wildly fragrant and almost soapy. What you have pictured there looks like the stuff.. Maybe it wasn't grown in the proper environment

  4. Dear Chef,
    Persicaria odorata is a VERY fragrant herb,with an unique taste, lasting even after an hour of cooking. And it is VERY similar to Polygonum persicaria, or other polygonum species, not fragrant at all. I use to grow my own rau ram and it looks almost the same to non rau ram weeds. The only distinction is it's flavour and taste, so possibly you haven't had a real Persicaria. Try again, it's my advice :)