Saturday, April 14, 2012
Alien Ingredient #26: Khao Thong
On another quick trip to the market to grab a couple of things for the restaurant, I saw a new addition to the line up of Asian herbs. At first, I mistook this herb for sweet potato vines, which I have worked with many times in the past. But on closer inspection, it clearly wasn't sweet potatoes and it was labelled Kha Thong. Google didn't help, which led me to believe that there was a typo in the name somewhere.
It took me a few minutes of puzzling to figure that this was some kind of bastardized Thai name, but fortunately before I could spend too much time digging into the name or running it across the street to the Thai restaurant, a customer put me on the right track. [Tran Huong-Thu, thank you!]
I now see that I was looking for khao thong, or more properly, phak khao thong, aka Houttuynia cordata. English names are heartleaf and fishwort. It was described thus: "The shoots and young leaves of khao thong have a strong fish-like smell with a hint of lemon. They are eaten raw with jeo or laap, giving a slightly bitter flavour." And, "has an unusual taste that is often described as fishy (earning it the nickname "fish mint"), so it is not enjoyed as universally as basil, mint, or other more commonly used herbs."
Yeah, well Tony and I hadn't read this before we chowed down on a leaf and spit it out immediately. We have decided that there is a more fitting name for this plant: Ass Plant.
Vote: Ass Plant says it all. We have already been there and you have been warned. No need to go there yourself.