Clear Mountain Garden Treasures
 

Clear Mountain Garden TreasuresCulture and Germination - Vietnamese Mint

Vietnamese Mint

Flowers
Family Polygonaceae
Name Polygonum odoratum
Common Names Vietnamese mint, Daun KeSum, Laksa Leaves, Chen Hom

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Culinary Uses for Vietnamese Mint
Laksa

Vietnamese mint comes from South East Asia. It is clump forming water plant, growing to 1 metre tall, often very happy in boggy ground. In the autumn, it grows small star shapped, light pink flowers, carried on short terminal spikes. The plant will only flower if grown in warmer situations.

The leaves have a pungent lemony flavour, quite distinct from other herbs and spices. In Malaysian cuisine, the leaves are used to flavour laksa, a spicy soup noodle dish.

Culture

When you get your plants, plant immediately in a 10cm container of outdoor potting mix. Place in a semi-shaded spot and water well. Place the pot inside a deep saucer. Top up the water in the saucer to keep the mix wet. After two weeks, gradually introduce to more light then, plant into the garden. If you are starting this plant in the colder months and there is frost, you will need to over winter in pots and plant out in the Spring.

Full sun or part shade is best.

Any soil will do as long as plenty of moisture is supplied. It will even grow in very shallow water. Feed once a year in the Spring with a high nitrogen fertiliser.

Cut back hard in the Autumn, after the pink flowers fade. It will not flower if grown in colder areas. Also, it may be killed by the frost. If you live in an area that gets frosts, it pays to site this plant where it will get some Winter protection. As an insurance, cut a few stalks and put in a jar of water to over-winter indoors. If the outdoor plant does not survive the Winter, replant using the stored cuttings.

Replant the clump every 3-4 years, as after that the heart will start to loose its vigour and produce smaller leaved stems. Like all mints, this quick growing plant will gradually spread, although it is not as invasive as common mint.

 Culinary Uses for Vietnamese Mint

The leaves are used in Vietnamese, Thai and South East Asian cooking. Use them blanched, or boil with stem and all in a soup. Essential ingredient of Laksa.

 Laksa

Soup

Part-A
   1 cup    shallots
   3 cloves    garlic
   3 stalks    lemon grass (or use equivalent powder) *
   1 inch    galangal root (or use equivalent powder) *
   1/3 teaspoon    turmeric powder *
   1 teaspoon    chilly powder, or to taste
   2 teaspoon    bunga kantan (<i>Etlingera ellator</i>)* optional
Part-B
   500 g    Flaked boiled fish (or equivalent canned fish, eg. Tuna)
   1 teaspoon    dry shrimp paste (belachan) powder*
   1 teaspoon    dried tamarind*, dissolved in a bowl of warm water
   1 cups    water
Part-C
      Vietnamese mint - to taste
      Ordinary mint - to taste
      Salt - to taste

Grind all the ingredients in part A finely.

Put part C into a pot and and bring to the boil. Add the ground ingredients and part B (except for the fish), then simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the shallots/onions are cooked.

The soup should taste spicy sweet and sour. Lastly, add the flaked fish.

Garnish

      Laksa noodles (thick rice noodles)
      Vietnamese mint leaves
      Ordinary mint leaves
      Cucumber, sliced into thin strips
      Lettuce leaves, sliced into long strips
      Onions, sliced thinly
      Pineapple (fresh or canned), sliced into thin strips
      Fresh chillies, seeded and sliced thinly
      Petis udang *, dissolved in a little water, optional

The usual way to have laksa is to put the noodles and garnish (except for the petis udang) into a bowl. Keep the soup simmering in the pot. Pour the hot soup into the bowl and carefully pour it back into the pot without tipping the noodles and garnish. This helps blanch the vegetables and herbs. Pour the hot soup into the bowl again and top with the petis udang.

Ingredients marked an asterisk (*) should be available in Asian grocery stores.


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