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Vietnamese Coriander (Persicaria odorata [Lour.] Soják)


botanicalPolygonum odoratum Lour.
越南香菜 [yuht nàahm hēung choi], 喇沙葉 [lāak sāa yihp]
Yuht naahm heung choi, Laak saa yihp
越南香菜 [yuè nán xiāng cài], 喇沙葉 [lā shā yè]
Yue nan xiang cai, La sha ye
CzechKokořík vonný
DanishVietnamesisk Koriander
EnglishSmartweed, Laksa plant, Vietnamese mint
FrenchRenouée odorante
GermanVietnamesischer Koriander, Wohlriechender Knöterich
HmongLuam lows
HungarianVietnámi menta
KhmerChi krassang tomhom, Xang-hum
LaoPhak phew, Phak pheo
MalayDaun kesum, Daun laksa, Daun kesom (Singapore)
Manipuri (Meitei-Lon)ফকপায়, ফকপাই
RussianКупена лекарственная, Горец ароматный
Kupiena lekarstvennaya, Gomets aromatny
Thaiผักไผ่, จันทน์โฉม, หอมจันทน์
Phak phai, Pak pai, Phak pai, Pa pao, Chan chom, Hom chan, Pak pai, Phak phai
VietnameseRau răm
Rau ram
Polygonum odoratum/Persicaria odorata: Vietnamese cilantro sprig
Vietnamese Coriander sprig
Used plant part

Leaves, always used fresh.

Plant family

Polygonaceae (buckwheat family)

Sensory quality

The herb has a coriander-like smell with a clear lemony note. Pungency, which dominates in the closely related water pepper, is hardly present. See also lemon myrtle about citrus-scented spices.

Main constituents

In the essential oil of Vietnamese coriander, long-chain aldehydes were found, e. g., decanal (28%) and dodecanal (44%), furthermore decanol (11%). Sesquiterpenes (α-humulene, β-caryophyllene) account for about 15% of the essential oil. (Journal of Essential Oil Research, 9, 603, 1997)

Polygonum odoratum / Persicaria odorata: Flower
Flower of Vietnamese coriander
Polygonum odoratum / Persicaria odorata: Inflorescence of Vietnamese cilantro
Flowering tips of Vietnamese coriander
Polygonum odoratum / Persicaria odorata: Flower
Flower of Vietnamese coriander

Viet­namese coriander is native to pen­insular South­east Asia (Indo­china), where it grows in wet environ­ments.


The old genus name Poly­gonum (English: knot­weed) refers to the shape of the stem, which is composed of many joints linked together by slightly bent knots or knees: Greek polys [πολύς] many and gony [γόνυ] knee; cf. also English knotweed. The new genus name Persicaria derives from the name of peach (Prunus persica), because of similar leaf shape.

In Singapore, Vietnamese coriander is known as laksa plant (also laksa herb or laksa leaves); in Singaporean Cantonese, there is the equivalent name laksa yip [喇沙葉]. These names reflects the usage of Vietnamese coriander for the Chinese-Malaysian noodle curry laksa, which in turn is apparently named for its many ingredients: The Hindi term lakh [लाख], also often used by Indians when speaking English, means hundred thousand or metonymically many, being derived from synonymous Sanskrit laksha [लक्ष] or lakshya [लक्ष्य].

The term Vietnamese mint frequently found in English literature is botanic nonsense, as peppermint belongs to a distant plant family, Lamiaceae.

Selected Links

Sorting Persicaria names ( Recipe: Laksa ( Recipe: Laksa ( Recipe: Laksa ( Recipe: Laksa Penang ( Recipe: Singapore Laksa ( Recipe: Laksa Lemak (

Polygonum odoratum/Persicaria odorata: Rau ram plant
Vietnamese coriander plant
Polygonum odoratum/Persicaria odorata: Vietnamese cilantro
Vietnamese coriander (sterile plant)
Vietnamese coriander is one of those numerous herbs that give Viet­namese cuisine its unique touch. The herb is, though, also used outside of Vietnam: It appears in Malaysian recipes and is quite typical of the Singa­porean cuisine.

In Vietnam, particularly in the South, fresh herbs are a conditio sine qua non of food. A typical South Viet­namese noodle soup (pho [phở]) is based on broth (often from chicken, pork or fish, or a combination therefrom) with a variety of different ingredients, which usually include small meat pieces, boiled and raw vegetables, fish balls, young onion greens and fried garlic slices. The soup is served with a large amount of additional flavorings, which are left to the diner to finalize his soup: lime wedges, mustard paste, nuoc mam [nước mắm] fish sauce, fresh red chile slices and a host of herbs which are dipped into the soup using chopsticks and eaten together with a spoonful of soup. Similarly, stir-fried meat and vegetables are never seen without generous amounts of chopped herbs, and the same holds for the tasty Viet­namese sandwiches, a colonial heritage. Since Viet­namese cooking is far less spicy than, for example, Thai cooking, the herbs are indispensable for the true taste of Vietnam.

The herb far most common for this purpose is coriander, whose ubiquitous occurrence in Vietnam tends to frustrate Western tourists; second in demand are long coriander and Viet­namese coriander. Occasionally, mints, the chameleon herb, perilla and basil are used. A herb limited to special applications is the rice paddy herb. In Southern Vietnam, herbs are of more importance than in the Chinese-influenced North. See Viet­namese Cinnamon on North Viet­namese noodle soups.

In Malaysia, Viet­namese coriander is a common garnish for many kinds of foods, only one example of which is the soupy noodle dish laksa, which is native to the entire Malaysian peninsula, but most often associated with the cuisine of Singapore. Singapore laksa differs from related foods prepared in Malaysia mostly by the use of coconut milk, which turns the originally clear soup into a creamy, rich curry dish.

Polygonum odoratum/Persicaria odorata: Vietnamese coriander shoot
Vietnamese coriander shoot
Polygonum odoratum: Vietnamese coriander sprig
Vietnamese coriander sprig

The native cui­sine of Singa­pore is often refer­red to as Nonya cuisine, where Nonya refers to a people of mixed Malay and Chinese ancestry also known as strait Chinese; the correct form is peranakan (baba for males and nyonya for females). Their settle­ment in Malacca (South Malaysia and Singapore) goes back to the voyages of the Chinese admiral Zheng He [郑和] in the early century. Viet­namese coriander plays an important rôle in their cuisine. Singa­porean laksa is made of boiled meat (chicken is most common), sea food (fish, crabs) and a variety of vegetables (bean sprouts, celery stalk, cucumber). The seasoning is due to a spice paste (bumbu) made from lemon grass, fresh turmeric, galanga, chiles, garlic and shrimp paste (balacan, trassi). Before serving, chopped Viet­namese coriander is sprinkled over the bowl liberally; according to educated opinions from Singapore, regular coriander would be a poor surrogate.

Outside of South East Asia, Viet­namese coriander is virtually unknown. The only exception to this is Manipuri cooking, which merges characterstics of both South East and South Asian cuisines. See chameleon leaf for more.

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