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Southern Glorious Herb

>> Saturday, April 21, 2007


Although I was born and mainly lived in Northern Vietnam, I did spend some short time in the South. The southern atmosphere is very different to what I used to in Hanoi. It is more crowded and energetic. I’ve never spent quite enough time there to truly understand and appreciate southern culture. But the short period is quite enough to develop a belonging sense and love for the area and its people.

I of course love southern Vietnamese food. Vietnamese cuisine is famous for its fresh herbs and you can find most of its glory in southern cuisine. We in the north have cold winter and generally harder climate conditions, but the south is full of sun, heat and humidity. Tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs are abundant all year round. And its cuisine reflects the blend of different cultures – the Viet, the Chinese, the Cham etc.

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Today the herb featured is very southern – rice paddy herb (ngo om). This herb is found mostly in southern Vietnam. It has a very pleasant fragrance – the blend of light circus, gentle cumin and some faint sweet basil. Rice paddy herb is so lovely that it can be enjoyed by almost everyone.

Rice paddy herb is most famous in southern most popular dish – sweet and sour freshwater fish soup. Although the versions of this soup can be found everywhere in Vietnam, I think the southern version is the most glorious. Not only because the fish used (a flathead type) is excellent but also because of rice paddy herb. Of course the herb can also used in salad, stir-fry and as garnish for varieties of dishes.

I use rice paddy herb quite often like in this chunky meat and taro soup. It is inspired by a southern dish that used grated purple yam and rice paddy herb. The herb provides a sweet aroma to the smooth and silky soup. I like to eat it alone, but others may want to serve it over rice. No recipe is needed for this very easy soup. Simply use your normal recipe for a chunky potato soup and substitute potatoes with taro. Taro goes well with meat so use cubed beef or pork if you like. Cook as normal. Just before serving, add some coarsely chopped rice paddy herb to the pot. The hearty and aromatic soup is then ready for you to enjoy!

This is my post for Weekend Herb Blogging. Founded by Kalyn, this week edition is hosted by Sher of What did you eat. Both Kalyn and Sher’s blogs are excellent so don’t miss them out!

15 comments:

sher 12:18 PM  

Ahh, that looks wonderful! I've never heard of rice paddy herb, so your post was both lovely to look at, it also taught me something, which is always fun. I would like to try rice paddy herb someday--it sounds very nice. Thanks for taking part in WHB! :):)

Kalyn 12:30 PM  

Your photos are just amazing lately. I don't think I've had this, although it looks similar to something I once had at a restaurant in San Francisco and there the menu called it Vietnamese Cilantro. It was served in a salad of some time as part of a dim sum meal, wish I could remember more about it. I want to go everywhere in the world and try all these foods, you know that's one of the reason I love your blog so much.

Lydia 1:04 PM  

Anh, thank you for this wonderful post. Rice paddy herb is not something I've ever heard of or tried, though perhaps I had it while I was traveling in Vietnam but didn't know what it was!

Angie 1:08 PM  

I agree with Kalyn. I just went "Wow wow wow!" when I say your pictures. U're reaching professional stanards with your food styling my friend :)

I learnt about a new herb again today, thanks!

Y 7:42 PM  

What a gorgeous looking herb! I don't think I've come across it before.

Kajal 11:49 AM  

Hi Anh,
Firist time visit your blog.
Very nicly creat this blog with nice presentaion.
Thanks for sharing so many different idea.
Have a nice day.:)
Kajal

Amy 12:50 PM  

Ooh I've never heard of rice paddy herb so I just learned something new. I'll have to try taro in my soups sometime, sounds really yummy.

I hope you don't mind but I tagged you in a food meme: share your five favorite places to eat. I'd love to read about where you like to eat in Melbourne. It's completely optional so no pressure. :)

Anh 5:02 PM  

Sher, thanks so much for your compliment... :)

Kalyn, oh your sweet comment makes my day ;). I do hope one day we can try all the foods that we have been sharing... There's so much to try, don't you think?

Lydia, thank you. You should have tasted it if you travelled to southern Vietnam. But it is hard to single out one particular herb when you have the whole medley on the table right?

Angie, *hug* thanks my pal for the encouragement.

y, I love the look of that herb, too.

Kajal, thanks for dropping over.

Amy, give it a try, This soup is one of my fav. I'll check out the meme and see what I can do, ok? :)

Precious Moments 12:49 PM  

A beautiful write up.

Sandeepa 12:16 AM  

Anh...that looks so beautiful. Thanks because I got to learn something so different. Does it have something to do with Rice Paddy ?

I have not yet visited a Vietnamese restaurant, but your posts want me to try out. maybe soon

joey 2:04 AM  

I love learning about new herbs...this one sounds lovely! And that soup sounds delicious! :)

Sharmi 6:59 AM  

very informative. nice pics as always. Never heard of rice paddy herb.

Anh 11:20 AM  

Edith, thank you.

Sandeepa, *hug*. I'm not sure why it si called rice paddy herb in English actually. I am more familiar with the Vietnamese name... You should really try out a Vietnamese restaurant. Hope you like it.

Joey, thanks dear. :)

Sharmi, thanks dear. I didn't know about this herb until travelled to Southern Vietnam you see? But eversince, it has become one of my most be-loved herbs!

Susan 9:38 PM  

Thanks for introducing me to this new ingredient. I really enjoy preparing Vietnamese food. As usual, your photos are gorgeous, Anh.

Reena 11:44 AM  

My first time here. I am amazed at your photography. You make all dishes so tempting. I have never tried Vietnamese cuisine. Beautiful picture of Rice Paddy.

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