Vietnamese Coriander: Another Fantastic Cilantro Substitute

Vietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata), known as rau ram in Vietnam, is a fantastic cilantro substitute you should grow in your garden.

A fantastic cilantro substitute if you can't handle the flavor profile of normal coriander

Contents

Love cilantro but hate its fast-to-bolt personality? Hate cilantro but crave an herby element in your homemade salsa? Up your culinary game with unsung garden hero, Vietnamese coriander!

Vietnamese coriander, or Vietnamese cilantro, is a heat-loving perennial with slightly spicy, flavorful leaves that are a great culinary substitute for cilantro or mint. If papalo herb isn’t your thing, this may be the cilantro alternative for you! It thrives in warm climates spring through fall (zones 9-11) and in pots in cooler climates until the first frost.

Good Products for growing Vietnamese coriander:

Quick Care

The bushy prolific growing habit of vietnamese coriander makes it an amazing kitchen herb
The bushy prolific growing habit of vietnamese coriander makes it an amazing kitchen herb. Source: Ahmad Fuad Morad
Common Name(s)Vietnamese Coriander, Vietnamese Cilantro, Rau Răm, laksa leaf, Vietnamese mint, hot mint
Scientific NamePersicaria odorata
Germination TimePurchase live plants or propagate from cuttings
Days to HarvestHarvest ongoing as-needed
LightFull to filtered sun
Water:Prefers a consistently moist environment
SoilWell-drained soil mixed with compost
FertilizerLiquid seaweed fertilizer no more than twice per month
PestsAphids and spider mites
DiseasesNo known disease susceptibility

Vietnamese coriander has oblong, pointed, flat leaves with a purple streak mid-leaf. Known as Rau Răm in Vietnam, Vietnamese coriander is common in Vietnamese and Southeast Asian cuisine. Lemony and peppery tasting, it’s known as “kesum leaf” in Malaysia and Singapore and is a key ingredient in laksa, a spicy noodle soup with fish.

Branching out from your family’s usual fare isn’t a requirement for enjoying this herb. Simply substitute it for cilantro or mint in most recipes.

Speaking of regular cilantro .. Many of us have that friend who insists that the cilantro in your award-winning dish gives the whole thing an unpleasant, soapy taste. Actually, they may be part of the 4-14% of the general population with a genetic variation that causes this soap-like aftertaste. Good news! Vietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata) is botanically unrelated to typical cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) and is usually palatable to the cilantro-averse.

Planting Vietnamese Cilantro

Although Vietnamese cilantro is becoming more popular in home gardens, it may be difficult to find at your local plant nursery. Luckily, live plants are available from a few online vendors. Searching for this herb’s alternative names could be helpful when researching where to purchase them online. Vietnamese cilantro, Vietnamese mint, Rau Răm, hot mint, and laksa leaf all describe Vietnamese coriander.

No matter what you call it, Vietnamese cilantro is easily propagated by rooting fresh stems in water and then planting them outside in garden soil (zones 9-11). In cooler climates, pot young plants and leave them outside in warmer months and bring indoors before temperatures hit freezing.

When to Plant

Vietnamese coriander’s peak season is summer, but depending on your gardening zone, it can be grown year-round. In cooler areas, wait to plant Vietnamese coriander until all risk of frost has passed.

Where to Plant

Vietnamese cilantro prefers full sun but can tolerate filtered sun for a portion of the day. When planting directly into the soil, a low area of the garden that retains more moisture is an ideal location for this herb. Another tactic to help keep moisture consistent is mulching with straw, leaves, wood chips, etc. which will have the added bonus of keeping weeds at bay.

When planting in a container, use a mixture of all-purpose potting soil and compost. Because this plant will grow rapidly, make sure that the container is large enough to meet its size demands. If the container is too small, growth will be stunted. Vietnamese coriander can grow up to 36 inches tall and 15 inches wide.

How to Plant

Transplant healthy plants to an area of your garden that gets full sun for most of the day. Expect impressive growth mostly in height, up to 36 inches, and space plants approximately 12-18 inches apart.

Vietnamese Coriander Care

Persicaria odorata, as the name suggests, has a fragrant strong odor
Persicaria odorata, as the name suggests, has a fragrant strong odor. Source: Cerlin Ng

This herb is easy to grow but has some important requirements for both heat and water.

Light and Temperature

Needs full sun to filtered sun and summer heat to thrive.

Watering

Consistent watering is key; keep the soil around the plant wet. Mulch around the plants to preserve moisture and deter weeds.

Soil

Soil should be well-draining and enriched with compost.

Fertilizing

A seaweed spray fertilizer works great for this plant. Fertilize twice a month during warm weather and once a month during cooler periods.

Pruning

Use clean garden shears to prune stems that are growing outside of the designated growing area. Pruning also encourages growth and will result in bushier, stronger plants.

Propagating

To propagate, use clean, sharp garden shears or scissors to cut a thick, healthy stem (about 6 inches) from the plant and then remove about half of the leaves. Place the cutting in a clean container of water to encourage root growth. Once roots have formed, plant it directly in the garden or in a large pot.

Harvesting and Storing

Harvesting

Vietnamese coriander is ready to harvest when leaves are fully formed and still tender. For a continual harvest and to promote fresh, dense growth, pinch the growing tip of each shoot as you harvest.

Storing

Once picked, Vietnamese coriander should be refrigerated and used within a week. Either rinse and dry individual leaves and store them in plastic bags or place several cut stems in a container of water and cover with a plastic bag.

Troubleshooting Vietnamese Coriander

A fantastic cilantro substitute if you can't handle the flavor profile of normal coriander
A fantastic cilantro substitute if you can’t handle the flavor profile of normal coriander. Source: Starr Environmental

Vietnamese coriander has a couple of requirements that are non-negotiable: moisture and heat. The good news is that both of these needs can be met in most growing areas.

Growing Issues

Vietnamese coriander can be a little fussy in terms of its water requirements and underwatering could be your biggest difficulty. This plant loves consistently moist soil – think tropical. Heat is the other challenge and, if you’re growing this perennial in a zone cooler than 9-11, plant it in a pot large enough with room to grow. Before outdoor temperatures dip to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, welcome it into your home as a seasonal houseguest.

Pests and Diseases

Vietnamese coriander doesn’t have many pests and isn’t susceptible to diseases. If you notice that leaves are yellowing or falling off, check for aphids and spider mites, its two most common enemies. Spraying plant surfaces with neem oil will deter both pests.

FAQs

Q. How can I explore Vietnamese and Southeast Asian cuisine at home?

A. Search online for recipes that use Vietnamese coriander. Don’t forget to search by some of its other names: Vietnamese cilantro, Rau Răm, laksa leaf, or Vietnamese mint! You may also be able to borrow great cookbooks from your local library.

Q. What does Vietnamese coriander taste like?

A. Vietnamese coriander tastes a little like cilantro but more peppery, spicy, and lemony. These qualities explain why this herb is also known as hot mint! Young leaves are best to eat, as older leaves get tough and lose flavor. 

Q. Can I freeze Vietnamese Coriander?

A. Freezing Vietnamese coriander will damage the leaves and make them unusable. Instead, place cut stems in a container of water, put a plastic bag over the leaves, and refrigerate for up to a week. 

Vietnamese coriander is an unusual herb with the potential to find its place in everyday cuisine. Have you grown Vietnamese coriander? Tell me about your experience and share your favorite recipe in the comment section!


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