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The Ultimate Vietnamese Herb and Vegetable Guide

Learn the various types of Vietnamese herbs that are used in cooking your favorite dishes. I share with you a specific list of common Vietnamese fresh herbs and vegetables that are used while also sharing some of my favorite recipes to use them in.

If you ever venture into a Vietnamese restaurant and order dishes that come accompanies with lush green herbs, vegetables, and spices, you might be wondering what these plants are. My goal with this post is to share with you some of my favorite Vietnamese herbs and vegetables so that you may cook them directly at home.

This page will be added over time as I continue to bring you some of my favorite Vietnamese recipes and discover some of the herbs and veggies I need to add right on this page. I’ll try to provide a picture of each of the herbs, what the plants taste like, and also how each of the herbs are referred to in both English and Vietnamese.

Ultimate Guide to Common Herbs and Vegetables Used in Vietnamese Cooking

When you eat a Vietnamese noodle soup like Bun Bo Hue, Pho, and Banh Canh, you’ll be provided an accompaniment of fresh leaves and herbs full of green and even purple.

If you want to learn all about these herbaceous leafy greens and exactly what they are, find out below.

Bitter Herb – Rau Đắng

What Bitter Herb Looks Like

Bitter herb is smaller in size, but looks similar to the rice paddy herb with smoother edges and stems rather than serrated sharp ones. 

What Bitter Herb Tastes Like

Bitter herb taste very bitter and is used inside hot soups to bring another dimension to the dish. It’s normally not eaten in raw form. Generally, the leaves are only used in soups.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Bitter Herb

Bitter Herb is used in Vietnamese hot soups.

Chinese Chives (also known as Garlic Chives) – Hẹ

vietnamese-chinese-chives

What Chinese Chives Looks Like

Chinese Chives look very similar to green onion, but they are tougher tubular stems that are longer,  and more slender.

What Chinese Chives Tastes Like

They have a similar flavor to green onion with a garlic flavor that also has a mild, fresh, grassy taste.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Chinese Chives

Vietnamese cuisines that use chive include pho and spring rolls.

Chrysanthemum – Tần Ô

chrysanthenum leaves

What Chrysanthemum Looks Like

Chrysanthemum has a thick stalk and branches out with both toothed and rounded edges.

What Chrysanthemum Tastes Like

Chrysanthemum has a strong, butter flavor.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Chrysanthemum

In Vietnamese cuisines, Chrysanthemum is often provided as an accompaniment to hot soups.

Cilantro – Ngò Mùi, Ngò, or Rau Mùi

cilantro

Cilantro is referred to by many names in both English and Vietnamese. It’s often referred just cilantro, Chinese cilantro, Chinese parsley, Chinese Coriander, and sometimes called Vietnamese cilantro.

What Cilantro Looks Like

Vietnamese cilantro is has a bright green steams and leaves, resembling flat leaf parsley.

What Cilantro Tastes Like

Cilantro has a citrusy, deep, strong flavor. It’s often used as a topping or cooked down to diminish the strength of the flavor.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Cilantro

Vietnamese cuisines that use cilantro include Banh Mi, Pho, Bun Bo Hue, and Banh Canh.

Culantro – Ngò Gai

Culantro, often referred to in English as the sawtooth herb, is similar to a coriander herb, but is definitely a unique herb with a distinct flavor.

vietnamese culantro herb

What Culantro Looks Like

Culantro has a serrated leaf that has an appearance of a saw blade.

What Culantro Tastes Like

Culantro has a stronger flavor than cilantro and coriander.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Culantro

Vietnamese cuisines that use culantro include Vietnamese pho where it’s served as an accompaniment to the dish.

Fish Mint (also known as Heart Leaf)- Diếp Cá

Fish mint has a unique smell and taste that will be memorable if you encounter this dish.

fish mint vietnamese herb

What Fish Mint Looks Like

Fish mint has a shiny, heart shaped leaf.

What Fish Mint Tastes Like

Fish mint has a sour taste and has a fishy after taste. It does have a slight fish smell.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Fish Mint

Fish mint is often served along side dishes like Banh Khot and Banh Xeo. it is also served often with grilled meats and in fish soups.

Mustard Leaf (also known as Mustard Greens) – Cải Xanh (also known as Cải Bẹ Xanh)

vietnamese herbs - mustard leaf

What Mustard Leaf Looks Like

Mustard leaf has really sharp serrated edges with a flat, round leaf.

What Mustard Leaf Tastes Like

It has a peppery, sharp taste that is similar to radish.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Mustard Leaf

Mustard leaf is often used in dishes like Banh Xeo as added layers of wrapping to the dish.

Pennywort – Rau Má

vietnamese herb - pennywort

What Pennywort Looks Like

Pennywort has small, round leaves that look similar to clovers. The leaves have small ripples.

What Pennywort Tastes Like

Pennywort has a flavor reminiscent of cucumber and grass.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Pennywort

Pennywort is often used in Vietnamese cuisines like fresh spring rolls and pennywort juice.

Pepper Elder – Càng Cua

pepper-elder-vietnamese-herb

What Pepper Elder Looks Like

Pepper Elder has a green, glossy, broad leaf that is heart shaped with opaque stalks.

What Pepper Elder Tastes Like

It has a slightly sweet and bitter taste.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Pepper Elder

Pepper Elder is used fresh as well as in beef dishes cooked.

Piper Lolot – Lá Lốt

What Piper Lolot Looks Like

It has a teardrop shaped leaf that is dark green. It’s often confused with a similar leaf called Betel.

What Piper Lolot Tastes Like

Piper Lolot has a bitter, peppery taste.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Piper Lolot

Grilled beef often uses Piper Lolot as a wrap.

Rice Paddy (also known as sweet cumin) – Ngò ôm

This herb is often referred to as sweet cumin.

vietnamese herb - rice paddy

What Rice Paddy Looks Like

Rice paddy has a hollow stem that has small hairs on it with serrated leaves.

What Rice Paddy Tastes Like

Rice Paddy has a taste mixture of cumin, dill, and lemon.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Rice Paddy

Dishes that rice paddy is served with include Vietnamese pho.

Spearmint – Húng Lủi

vietnamese herb - spearmint

What Spearmint Looks Like

Spearmint has green dark leaves with an oval shape and serrated edges.

What Spearmint Tastes Like

Compared to peppermint, Spearmint has a more more subtle flavor than spearmint.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Spearmint

Vietnamese cuisines that use spearmint include Goi Cuon.

Peppermint – Húng Cây

peppermint-vietnamese-herb

What Peppermint Looks Like

Peppermint has bright green leaves that are pointy, with slightly serrated edges. 

What Peppermint Tastes Like

Peppermint has a mint flavor that is spicy with a bit of heat. 

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Peppermint

Vietnamese cuisines that use peppermint are often pork and shrimp dishes like Vietnamese spring rolls.

Sorrel – Rau Chua

sorel herb - vietnamese herb

What Sorrel Looks Like

Sorrel has wavy, arrow-shaped leaves.

What Sorrel Tastes Like

Sorrel has a kiwi-like taste with subtle sour notes.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Sorrel

Sorrel in Vietnamese dishes is often eaten with Banh Xeo and spring rolls.

Thai Basil – Húng Quế

This is one of the most popular herbs in Vietnam for accompanying with soups.

thai basil for asian food

What Thai Basil Looks Like

Thai Basil is serrated and pointy with a purple stem with purple white flowers.

What Thai Basil Tastes Like

Thai Basil has a taste similar to licorice and anise, and is different than that of sweet Italian basil.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Thai Basil

Thai basil is used in dishes like Banh Xeo and Vietnamese pho.

Vietnamese Coriander (also known as Vietnamese Mint and Hot Mint) – Rau Răm

While the names may be confusing between Vietnamese Coriander and Vietnamese cilantro, they look completely different.

vietnamese-coriander-hot-mint

What Vietnamese Coriander, Vietnamese Mint, and Hot Mint Looks Like

Vietnamese coriander as smooth edges with point leaves.

What Vietnamese Coriander, Vietnamese Mint, and Hot Mint Tastes Like

Vietnamese coriander has a mint taste with a bit of heat and a mix of citrus.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Vietnamese Coriander, Vietnamese Mint, and Hot Mint

Vietnamese cuisines that Vietnamese Rau Răm is used in includes seafood dishes like Banh Canh Tom Cua and Bun Rieu.

Vietnamese Balm (also known as Lemon Balm) – Kinh Giới

vietnamese-herb---lemon-balm

What Vietnamese Balm Looks Like

Vietnamese balm looks similar to mint leaves, but are larger in size. The serrated edges are rounded as opposed to having a pointy edge like culantro.

What Vietnamese Balm Tastes Like

Vietnamese balm has a slight citrus flavor.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Vietnamese Balm

Vietnamese cuisines that use Vietnamese Balm include Vietnamese spring rolls.

Vietnamese Lettuce

vietnamese herb - asian lettuce buttercrunch

What Vietnamese Lettuce Looks Like

Vietnamese lettuce looks similar to butterhead lettuce.

What Vietnamese Lettuce Tastes Like

Vietnamese lettuce taste similar to butterhead lettuce, with a sweet buttery taste.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Vietnamese Lettuce

Vietnamese dishes that use Vietnamese lettuce often use it to wrap ingredients up, including Banh Xeo.

Vietnamese Perilla – Tía Tô

This herb has a very distinct and unique taste that is very specific to Vietnamese dishes.

perilla-vietnamese-herb

What Vietnamese Perilla Looks Like

Vietnamese perilla has large, wide leaves with a velvety texture. The green and purple leaves have serrated edges.

What Vietnamese Perilla Tastes Like

Vietnamese Perilla has an earthy, yet subtle taste.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Vietnamese Perilla

Vietnamese perilla is often paired as an accompaniment to Banh Xeo, Banh Khot, and Vietnamese spring rolls.

Water Spinach (also known as Morning Glory) – Rau Muống

What Water Spinach Looks Like

Water spinach has an arrow-shaped leaf with thin, hallow shoots.

What Water Spinach Tastes Like

Water spinach doesn’t have strong flavor, but provides dishes with a crunchy texture.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Water Spinach

Water spinach is commonly found shredded and added on top of Bun Rieu and Bun Bo Hue.

Watercress – Xà Lách Son

watercress-vietnamese-herb

What Watercress Looks Like

Watercress has a green leaf that is wavy and shiny with a thick stem.

What Watercress Tastes Like

Water cress has a peppery flavor.

Vietnamese Dishes That Use Watercress

Vietnamese dishes can be found alongside herb plates that go with Pho and Bun Bo Hue.

Summary of Common Vietnamese Plants, Herbs, and Vegetables Used

This article provides a good starting list of some of the most common ingredients used in Vietnamese cooking. I hope this provides you some insight on some of the most delicious herbs out there for pairing with your recipes whether you are just starting out with Vietnamese cooking or just wanting to become a more adventurous consumer of delicious food, understanding the variety of herbs that are used in these dishes can be a great start!

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