Botanical Name: Persicaria odorata
Vietnamese mint or Vietnamese coriander is a creeping, herbaceous perennial that grows from 15-30cm high, but it has been reported to grow up to 80cm in ideal conditions. It is not part of the mint family, but has some resemblance to the mints in its appearance and growth habits. One of those habits is the ability to colonise an area very quickly and it is generally a prolific plant in the right conditions. The native habitat of Vietnamese mint is South East Asia, and Vietnam in particular where it grows naturally.
The leaves are very aromatic, elongate to a point and are about 8cm long. They have a refreshing green appearance with red stems and a reddish, brown marking on the upper surface. In spring and summer the plant produces small pink flowers on small stalks. It is easy to grow when given the right environment and may need to be controlled in some areas.
You can harvest fresh leaves and stems as you need them for cooking or to use as health supplements. The plant recovers well and you will have a constant supply, so there is no need to dry and store the leaves. The leaves are widely used in cooking and also have some traditional medicinal uses.
Vietnamese mint has a creeping habit and propagates very easily by direct planting of cuttings taken in spring or summer. Some reports indicate that the plants can grow quite tall, but generally it is 15-30 cm in height. It prefers dappled shade to protect from the hot sun and moist conditions, but if kept well-watered it can do well in full sun. As with all herbs, a fertile and well drained location will give the best results. You may like to restrain the plant in potted conditions if you don’t have a lot of space. Vietnamese mint is native to South East Asia and is best suited to the warm tropical climates. It will do well in most Australian climates, but make sure they have enough water in summer and be prepared for frost tenderness in affected areas.
Vietnamese mint is used both as a soothing tea and in steam baths to improve skin condition. Other traditional uses of Vietnamese mint include treatments to: reduce fever, reduce swellings as an anti-inflammatory for wounds, to improve acne, reduce nausea, aid digestion and stomach complaints, to improve hair and skin condition, use as a diuretic and as an overall health tonic. The active ingredients have shown anti-oxidant activity and include various aldehydes found in the oils.
Vietnamese mint is admired for its peppery or hot minty taste, which is quite pleasant. Some people prefer to use it sparingly while others use larger servings in their salads. The taste has been also been likened to coriander and its culinary uses are similar. It is very popular in Vietnamese and South East Asian cuisine, like rice, meat, poultry and curry dishes where it can be added during cooking. However, Vietnamese mint is often used in rice paper rolls and in salads to great effect. To make your own, simply use rice paper, rice noodle, add your choice of vegetables and herbs (Vietnamese mint, basil and chives are nice) perhaps add some chicken or prawns and serve!