Arrowroots in Vietnam
There are several species of arrowroots whose roots (rhizomes) are either eaten fresh or made into flour in Vietnam. In Vietnamese, arrowroots are called “dong”, an umbrella term for plants that belong to the Marantaceae, and Cannaceae families.
The common arrowroot is Maranta arundinacea, known as dong, dong củ, dong ta or bình tinh in Vietnamese. They are widely-cultivated in southern Vietnam for its roots. Arrowroots are often eaten as a snack by simply boiling them in water. Its powder form is used in making several local cakes such as bánh thuẫn cupcake or bánh in. The powder is considered as more fragrant than common tapioca starch or glutinous rice powder.
Stachyphrynium placentarium is known as “dong lá” in Vietnamese and this plant is considered as a wild arrowroot plant which is cultivated in northern Vietnam only for its leaves.(lá dong). The leaves of this species are notably used throughout Vietnam as a wrapping for food items: especially bánh chưng (the glutinous rice cake), bánh nếp and bánh tẻ. Species in the similar genus Phrynium, including P. pubinerve may also be used for this purpose. Dong leaves can also be used to make vinegar be soaking them in rice liquor or 30% sugar solution.
Canna edulis (Vietnamese: dong riềng), commonly known as achira is planted for its roots. Cana eludis is often confused with Canna india (purple arrowroot, Vietnamese: dong riềng đỏ). Canna indica looks similar to Canna edulis but is shorter and has brighter red flowers. Achira plant is cultivated in northern Vietnam. Achira starch has two forms: wet starch and dry starch. Wet starch is the main ingredient to make glass noodle (cellophane noodle) in Vietnam.
False arrowroot (Curcuma pierreana, Vietnamese: bình tinh chét) is smaller than arrowroot, and its usage is similar. This plant grows in several central Vietnam provinces. However, the plant is unknown throughout Vietnam so its cultivation area is reduced, and probably forgotten.