Asian Salads and Herbs - How to Cook and Grow

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For me the arrival of the English summer months means a much longed for crop of Asian herbs at my disposal. Now at last I can enjoy a green curry with the addition of a few torn Thai basil leaves or a nourishing Vietnamese pho with its wonderful laksa mint. Trying to recreate a fragrant Thai salad in the middle of a Western winter is frustration personified; life just isnít the same without them. It isnít until those bleak dark nights that the importance of fresh herbs in Asian food is truly appreciated, Mediterranean basil is no substitute for Thai or neither Holy basil nor ground coriander for fresh and the thought of freeze dried herbs is enough to throw in the towel. Supermarkets do, of course sell coriander year round but never with the root attached which is so vital in the preparation of curry and laksa pastes.

Wild Basil in Singapore

There are many varieties of herbs and salad greens grown throughout Asia, many are impossible to find outside their native country or are seldom used, hence the reason for their omission. Some, such as dill and mint are not regarded as truly Asian but as their use is so widespread they deserve inclusion. The index is not an exact science, some are technically vegetables but are used as salads or herbs and any that appear to be missing can be found in the Asian vegetable section. Wherever possible I include details on how to grow and these are based on my experience of growing them in a misgiving English climate rather than copied from a Singapore gardening manual. You donít need a polytunnel or heated greenhouse to enjoy the heady aromas of a pot or two of Asian herbs, find a gap on a sunny windowsill and reap the benefits the next time you cook Asian.

Banana Flower and Leaf
Betel Leaf
Chinese Celery
Chives - Garlic Chives
Curry Leaves
Fennel Herb
Grachai - Wild Ginger
Holy Basil
Lime Leaf
Morning Glory - Siamese Watercress
Pandanus Leaf
Shiso Cress
Thai Basil
Vietnamese Mint - Coriander

Content and picture © Miles Collins