Thursday, September 11, 2008

Name that Mint

Michele and I had a nice dinner tonight at the Jasmine Garden, a Vietnamese restaurant a few blocks from our flat. In case you've never been, many Vietnamese dishes are served with a side plate of garnishes, including lots of mint and basil. I brought home some of the mint, since I've never seen it before, and I'm hoping that someone out there can tell me what it is.

The waiter said it was a mint they get from Thailand. I didn't
want to press him on it, but do they really fly in mint from Thailand? It almost looked like regular mint, except that each bunch had a couple freakishly big leaves. The other odd thing was the leaves are dark green on one side and purple on the other. The taste was minty, with basil-ish undertones. Can anyone help enlighten me?




23 comments:

thoxbui said...

Hey, this is something I can actually help with!

In Vietnamese, it's called "tia' to^".

http://www.evergreenseeds.com/vipeitto.html

Awesome stuff fresh, served as one of the standard condiments with Vietnamese cooking (but superb when used in a soup, I've found).

It grows very well in US. When I was living in Illinois, I had two huge beautiful bushes outside (would die off in winter, but spring back up in..spring). Just take a stem, stick in the ground and water. It should grow like weed in SF.

Chef John said...

Wow, that was fast! That's it, thanks for the link. I just stuck the bunch in a glass of water- hopefully it roots. So it isn't a mint after all.

KPeff said...

The best thing food-wise about living in Houston is the abundance of good Vietnamese restaurants. Great BBQ and Tex-Mex can be found all over the state, but Texas' best Vietnamese food is in Houston. I could live comfortably off of Vietnamese grilled pork sandwiches alone.

Chef John - how do you spice your pho at a Vietnamese restaurant? I throw in a handful of bean sprouts, some basil leaves, as many jalapeno slices as I can, and a tablespoon of sri racha. Depending on my mood, I might squeeze a little lime into it.

Also - you've cultivated your fans' advice several times through your website, so you know we are eager to contribute. When are you going to set a date for us to send you pictures of our FoodWishes-inspired meals so that you can post them and we can all see what we've learned? It would be a great way to introduce us all to each other.

Chef John said...

sounds like we spice our pho the same way - at home I refer sambal to sriracha, but love both.

Ive asked for photos in the past, but I should do a post series regarding submissions of food wish photos.

pixen said...

It's Shiso... which has two species... green and purple. Another name for it beefsteak plant. Not sure why it's called beefsteak plant. It's widely used in Japan, Korea & Southeast Asian countries. Great for BBQ like yakitori. Sometimes, i wrapped the leaves around fish before grilling to give that special flavour or sprinkle on steam dishes.

Chef John said...

it reminded me of shiso, but I don't think that's it. It may be in the same family, but I think thoxbui got it.

dave said...

hey chef john,
this is something i eat all the time being a korean. the korean version doesn't have the purple color.

also called sesame leaf or "genyip" in korean.
check out wiki, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perilla

i love to use the big leaves as a wrap with fried pork, beef, rice, etc.

this is my first post, love your site!

Chef John said...

Okay, you're all right!!
"In North America, it is increasingly commonly called by its Japanese name, shiso, in addition to being generally referred to as perilla."

Chef John said...

More from Wikipedia:

"Vietnamese cuisine uses a variety similar to the Japanese hojiso but with greenish bronze on the top face and purple on the opposite face. The leaves are smaller and have a much stronger fragrance than hojiso. In Vietnamese, it is called tía tô, derived from the characters "

Birder said...

Chef John, the thing I've always wanted to ask you most about (but never really felt I had the right context), was if you would ever post some nice Viet dishes. It's one of my favourite cuisines ever. I would love you to see you wield some more sriracha, fish sauce and fresh herbs, etc. to create something awesome as per your usual. What think you?

Chef John said...

i agree, i should, and will.

Bruce said...

I read this right after having harvest a bunch of wild shiso from a neighbor's field here in Tokyo.

We use it for lots of thing foods -- one of my favorites is a chicken yakitori with ume paste and minced shiso sprinkled on top.

Today, however, I was making up another batch of shiso juice using the red leafed variety. Just boil the leaves (and stems if your too lazy to trim :-) about 3 minutes, filter through a strainer, add sugar and citric acid (or vinegar) to taste.

We usually use 500g sugar per two liters of liquid and add the acid/vinegar until sufficiently tangy.

Serve by mixing the shiso juice into iced water or soda.

Nate-n-Annie said...

Red Shiso is one of our favorite herbs. We like it in our Vietnamese summer rolls as well as bun rieu recipes. Our favorite sushi restaurant, Akane in Los Altos, has a nigiri of tai with shiso that is so very nice.

We have a red shiso plant growing in our yard. Hopefully it will survive!

Ms.T said...

We also use this in one of the 7 beef dishes (bo bay mon). It's used to wrap around seasoned ground beef then broiled/bbq.

Anonymous said...

its perilla

japanese ones are not purple

Hong and Doug said...

Tía tô is correct...we have grow it in the back yard during warmer weather here in SE Wisconsin. Surprisingly, there are all kinds of Vietnamese herbs that grow well here.

I don't know if there is a translation for tía tô, we just call it Vietnamese mint. In one of our Viet-English dictionaries it says "Balm Mint" or "Garden Balm". It makes for a good tea also...boil in water, add tea packets, and a little sugar.

Great site, thanks for the vids. We will be making your pizza dough later this week.

VirtualMall said...

Yes, it's called tia to. Love your site Chef John.

Anonymous said...

well tia in vietnamese (northern accent) means dark red; just like the color of the leaf. It's an essential herb for "Bun rieu" which is basically tomato noodles soup.

Anonymous said...

I'm way behind on reading this, but just wanted to mention that basil is in the (incredibly large) mint family. So, you were right that your beautiful basil IS a mint. And a basil. Cheers. Shelley (who is married to a botanist) from St. Louis

morning turtle said...

I recently started using perilla leaves as an addition to or replacement for lettuce in a regular old sandwich (like turkey and provolone on wheat) I like that the texture is a bit coarser, and perilla has that great kinda tangy flavor which livens up cold cuts. I'd also imagine that perilla has a lot more nutritional value than iceberg lettuce...

Binh said...

I'm new to your site, and I love it. Anyway, regarding to the leave. We have two kind, The purple leave call "tia to" and the Green leave call "canh gioi". Me and my wife personally love the green leave more, because it smell and taste better.

Tamayo said...

We also have this in the Philippines, in some particular areas like our city, we call it "atay-atay", or in Philippine general term "mayana".
http://www.stuartxchange.org/Mayana.html

But, unlike you do, we do not use it for cooking purpose, never known ever being used to any Philippine dishes. Instead, an herbal use for curing coughs especially on children.

Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed that looks like mayana, never thought of using that for cooking!I'm Filipino, and when I was little we use that for boils and bruises and my parents use it for coughs. Just pound the leaf a bit and apply to the afflicted area or get the juice and drink it to relieve your cough prob.
But thanks you also for telling us about this, now I know another usage for this plant, I'm now thinking of tasting it for salad.