Making asam laksa or seafood dishes? Keep some ‘daun kesum’ on hand

Daun kesum.

By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, April 26: The aromatic herb known as ‘daun kesum’, a species of Vietnamese coriander or mint, has been widely used in Asian culinary cooking, particularly as an ingredient in preparing savoury seafood dishes.

A 66-year-old vegetable seller at Kota Sentosa’s Farmer Market, Nina Amit, said those who knew how to use the versatile herb would always keep an eye out for it as it made their dishes more appetising.

Nina Amit.

Nina, who had been a vegetable seller for 35 years, said the aromatic herb would be ideal for many spicy dishes, notably asam fish or many varieties of asam laksa dishes, due to their aromatic, pungent smell.

“This herb is popularly used in many seafood dishes. When I lived in West Malaysia, I noticed that many food operators or individuals cooked their seafood dishes with this daun kesum. 

“This herb can be obtained in the vegetable market if you know how to look for it, and if you are a frequent user, you can easily plant it yourself as long as the ground is moist, like how you plant local ‘kangkong’,” she told DayakDaily.

Nina joked that the herb has a very aromatic and pungent smell, so much so that if your neighbour used it, you would already know what they were cooking.

“From my experience selling herbs and using them, if I happened to be your neighbour, I would also know you have the herb planted, as the aroma from the plant is distinctive,” she added.

Nina said the herb is versatile as the young shoots of the daun kesum could be consumed as ‘ulam-ulam’ or side vegetable dishes or eaten raw with spicy sambal or spicy prawn paste sauce.

“The herb is usually put into the boiling broth of the dishes to give an aromatic smell that could boost one’s appetite,” she shared.

“If you want to cook asam fish dishes or asam laksa and seafood dishes, you may need this herb. If you are not sure, always ask the vegetable seller if they have the herb; for me, I sold a bundle of six stalks of daun kesum for RM1 at my stall,” she said. — DayakDaily