Thursday, February 25, 2010

Unsung Culinary Herbs

During my Olympic excursion up to Vancouver, I had to visit my cousin's restaurant and dine at The Flying Tiger. With a mouth-watering selection of shareable Asian street food which includes 48 hour-marinated Grilled Kalbi Ribs, Crispy Thai Squid, Salt Spring Island Mussels swimming in red curry, and Philippine egg-rolls (Lumpia).

Crepes Duck Confit

My favorite, however, has to be the scrumptious Pulled Duck Confit Crepes. OMG, it is simply mouth-watering as you assemble your own crepes with the duck, shredded cucumber and jicama, and an assortment of Asian herbs that were so intense and refreshing, I actually yelped in approval!

My cousin joked as she asked for the scientific names of these plants to test my identification prowess and now knowing a few, I had to look 'em up!!

So here's the assemble of herbs:

Thai Basil(Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflora Thai Basil cultivar group: Becoming more and more common as a garnish with the ever popular Vietnamese noodle soup called Pho. It's an attractive plant with purple stems and a licorice like scent.

Shiso (Perilla frutescens): A member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and looks a little like nettle. It has a subtle minty fennel like scent and taste.

Rau Răm (Persicaria odorata)
: Know as Vietnamese coriander, this is one of various Persicarias that can be eaten. It has a pungent and distinctive flavor that is spicy and somewhat bitter.

Cilantro or Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
: Some people absolutely LOVE this herb, while there are some that are absolutely repulsed by it. I, personally, enjoy this herb as it exists in so many dishes I love. From soups, salsas, salads, I love its pungent and extremely fragrant aroma. That's why it's called "xiang cai" in Chinese meaning "fragrant greens".

Rau Om (Limnophila chinensis var. aromatica)
This herb totally blew me away with its pungent lemony flavor with a hint up cumin.

I've been able to find these herbs in Asian markets and I'm anxious to recreate these crepes or just experiment with these wild and aromatic flavors in various dishes.

Then, I'll be compelled to try and grow them!


  1. thx honey! on my next 99 shopping list.


  2. yum-o! we're definitely going to go there the next time we're in Vancouver. Have you ever tried culantro? Much more pungent than cilantro. I highly recommend it. I've found it at Viet-Wah in little baggies in the veggie section. :)

  3. Oh Bridget! How cool. Culantro is an Eryngium (Sea Holly).

    Will most definitely check it out.