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Thoughts on fish mint (houttuynia)?

  • m

I just read about this fish mint and I'm thinking of ordering it for my herb garden. I'm thinking it could be useful to give a fishy flavour to vegetarian dishes. I've never tasted it though and I cannot find a lot of information about it online. How do you use it? Do you like it?

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  1. You might try posting on the gardening board. I've never heard of this plant, but maybe someone over there has.

    1. I've heard of it but have not grown it. Would love to, though - hadn't even thought of that! I will certainly look for the seed or transplants in May. Let us know what happens. I imagine it would be wonderful in Thai and other ethnic dishes.

      2 Replies
      1. re: chefathome

        If you are looking for a place to order it, it is available here: http://www.richters.com/Web_store/web...
        They have a standard variety and a chameleon variety. Their description seems to indicate the chameleon variety is edible, but many sites I've found say the chameleon variety is only ornamental.

        1. re: mym

          Oh, of course! Thick of me not to think of it. I will certainly look into it.

      2. I have used this. It was called by another name when I bought it that I cannot at the moment recall. I used it in a Cambodian pork dish called prahok kthis.

        It did lend a distinct, fish-sauce flavor to the dish that I must admit, I did not care for. Its odor is quite strong and distinctive. Akin to fish-sauce but more vegetal. Kind of tough to describe. I am sure that I could have used it better or if nothing else, balanced out the flavor of it with some additional ingredients (now that I think about it, a hit of lime would have probably worked wonders).

        If you haven't done so already, ask around a Southeast Asian (Vietnamese) community. You may find answers there. I don't suggest tossing this one around by the handful, make sure you get some guidance as to its use. This stuff ain't parsley.

        1. Stay away from Houttuynia!!!!!! It is an extremely invasive plant. I planted the "Chameleon" variety in my garden, and have spent the last few years pulling it out from all the area's where I don't want it. I'm not much for herbicides, and I avoid them, but glyphosate, when I have used it, is barely effective against it. I have heard that it is edible, and can be used as a substitute for cilantro, but I find that the odor when it is cut, like when I mow my lawn, to be absolutely horrendous. Very unpleasant. I don't think there would be a difference in edibility between "Chameleon" and the normal variety, since some of my "Chameleon" growths have reverted to the normal pattern. If you really want to grow it, keep it confined to a pot. Do not plant it in your garden!

          2 Replies
          1. re: EricMM

            Well, that is certainly helpful to know. It sounds like it is hardly worthwhile.

            1. re: EricMM

              Old thread, but worth echoing - I spent my whole childhood weeding this stuff out of the yard. It stinks. It grows. You pull it. It keeps coming. It makes running bamboo look like child's play.

            2. I'm Vietnamese and I don't like it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: jaykayen

                This is the best topic thread EVER! Who wouldn't love people talking about something that smells "absolutely horrendous" and "This stuff ain't parsley" and "Do not plant it in your garden!"

                It certainly warned me off!

                1. re: jaykayen

                  I agree, I'm Vietnamese too. As far as taste, I do think it's a very strong love it or hate it. Did you try eating some yet?

                2. Haha, wow! Thanks everyone for the comments. I think I might not plant it after all!! But I'm still curious. Do you think it is something I could find in a vietnamese grocery store?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: mym

                    I bought two pots of it once to add to the ground covers on our hillside, but my landscaper turned white, red and purple and begged me not to. I went online and researched it and found no end of horror stories. This is an invasive rhizome, not unlike running bamboo, beautiful (the colorful one) but unstoppable and once you've got it, you've GOT it. If you choose to experiment with it, grow it in a pot set inside another pot, no cracks or drain holes.

                    1. re: mcf

                      At least running bamboo tastes good. I made the mistake of planting black bamboo. But I control it simply by eating every shoot that appears where I don't want it.

                      1. re: EricMM

                        I bought this house in the early invasion years; there's no controlling it. At least I narrowly dodged the houttuynia bullet.

                    2. re: mym

                      Yes if you have a pretty big Vietnamese community in your area you should be able to find it a the market.
                      In Vietnamese it is Diếp Cá and is usually eaten with strongly flavored grilled meats.
                      If you want to like it try to concentrate on the tart herbal notes of it's flavor and start off with just a little of it with other herbs in the mix.
                      I have not cultivated much of a liking for it, but S.O. likes it.

                    3. Houttuynia is a vigorous clonal herb that comes in only two ecotypes: the Chinese/Vietnamese ecotype that has an aroma & taste similar to coriander. The Japanese ecotype smells and tastes of a strange citrusy-gingery. Both types can be used in a multitude of ways (check Google): salads, herbal teas, etc. . Grown within a contained space as the plant is very vigorous. The fishy flavour is really only perceivable by those who hate coriander, whilst those who like it smell & taste coriander.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Mhoonruk

                        No way. I love Cilantro and Fish Mint tastes fishy to me (no pun intended).

                      2. Fish mint really does taste fishy. I like it better when it's young and fresh. If it's old, it tastes more fishy. And if it's an older plant such as the leaves are big; they are less tender and more gritty to eat. I like it, but I might be biased because I love herbs; the stronger the taste, the better for me- i can eat cilantro and mint like salad and not really as herbs. :) People are right though, it grows like an invasive weed. BUT, you can grow it in a bin/pot/container- make sure the dirt level isn't too high; the plant shouldn't be peeking out of the container, and it should be fine. I'm not sure how the chameleon plant differs from the fish mint; only that supposedly the chameleon plant is not edible like the fish mint: http://vietherbs.com/herb-directory/f... You also shouldn't need to order seeds. You can get the plants as ready to eat herbs from a Vietnamese market and root it yourself by just putting the stem part in water; you can even add rooting hormones. After that, transplant to dirt and it thrives! hm... maybe you could even try growing indoors by putting it in a hanging pot; that might even look nice! :


                        Oh, I thought what Mhoonruk posted was interesting. I have tasted these fish mints that tasted very different at different times. So maybe I was trying different ecotypes. :) It's true, they can taste a little citrusy-gingery or coriander-ish.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: applechowder

                          @applechowder The chameleon plant is just the variegated version of the plain green-leaved species (Houttuynia cordata). Most variegated plant will revert to their non-varigated form due to mutations in the growing points (meristem) If this happens if you do not remove the non variegated portion it will grow faster & more vigorously than the variegated portion eventually re-allocating nutrients to the more vigorous portion and eventually the variegated portion will die at the expense of the more vigorous non-variegated portion.
                          Even though Wikipedia is something you warn students about to be careful, the info on Houttuynia is fairly informative and accurate as far as I can work out. My best idea for cooking would be to cook it with other powerful flavours. Maybe a sweet fish curry would be nice!

                          1. re: Mhoonruk

                            Interesting thread. I grow Houttuynia cordata as an ornamental plant in the garden's "wet border" along with the other flowers and shrubs that like it very damp. Never realised it was also an edible (not least as it's not sold here as one).

                          2. I would caution you. If you have never tried it..it might not be a great idea to plant it, especially if it is as aggressive as people write. I am NOT Vietnamese, but travel their frequently and love the cuisine. Fish mint is very strong, and has a very distinctive aroma and taste. It's not like fish at all..its more like a a pond bottom/paddy water smell. It is usually mixed in with other herbs/greens in wraps. It's really not served by itself as it is pretty strong. I don't mind it, but don't miss it when it is not in food. My wife on the other hand who is a pretty adventurous eater can't go near it, and still talks about it's stench to this day. You won't be missing a lot if you don't grow it.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: wabi

                              That's a good description- it can have a pond bottom/paddy water smell! So in that way, I imagine it may stink like pond water if there's a lot of these guys, but the smell is usually subtle if fresh i think. I can see what you mean by that it doesn't really taste like fish, but to me it does. There's this certain fish dish served with ginger that tastes very similar to fish mint to me. :)