tonkin jasmin

Edible Flowers And Blossoms in Vietnamese Cuisine

Vietnam is an Asian tropical country, and its cuisine includes a lot of fresh vegetables. Some flowers and blossoms are used as vegetables. A blossom is a flower with an indication that a fruit is fruiting. In another word, a blossom comes from a plant that bears fruits. In Vietnam, fully-bloomed flowers and flower buds can be made into salads, stir fry dishes or used a hotpot vegetables.

Banana blossoms

Not all type of banana blossoms (Vietnamese: bắp chuối) are used in cooking. There are about 4 or 5 common banana cultivars but only 2 of them are perfect for cooking, namely chuối hột banana (Musa balbisiana) or chuối xiêm/ chuối sứ banana (Musa acuminata x Musa balbisiana), while others are too bitter. Banana blossoms are harvested when they are young and have a shape like a corn cob (hence its name in Vietnamese). The blossoms are often thinly sliced into ring-like chiffonades, and used in salads and as a side dish of vegetables in some noodle soup dishes like Bún bò Huế.

banana blossom salad
Banana blossom salad (Vietnamese: gỏi bắp chuối or nộm hoa chuối)

Pumpkin blossoms

Fully-bloomed pumpkin blosssoms (Vietnamese: bông bí), and pumpkin flower buds (Vietnamese: bí nụ) are also a common vegetable in family meals as well as in restaurants. Both fully-bloomed pumpkin blossoms and its bud form are often combined with other ingredients to make stir fry dishes, and sometimes they are crispy-fried as snacks. Pumpkin blossoms can also be stuffed with chopped or minced meat, or steamed and are one of the most highly-prized hotpot vegetables.

pumpkin blossoms in a Vietnamese soup
Pumpkin blossoms in a Vietnamese soup

Sesbania flowers

Sesbania is a genus of flowering plants in the pea family, Fabaceae. The flowers of some Sesbania spieces are used in Vietnamese cuisine, notably so đũa (Sesbania grandiflora) and điên điển (Sesbania bispinosa). In South Vietnam, these flowers can be used in canh chua, Vietnamese sour soup dish, and they are also highly-prized hotpot vegetables. Sometimes they are poached together with other vegetables in a dish called rau kho quẹt (poached vegetables with “kho quẹt” sauce). Sesbania flowers are often harvested in the wild, and only in a few places, they are cultivated.

dien dien sasbania flowers soup with fish
Dien dien sasbania flower sour soup

Cowslip creeper flowers

Cowslip creeper (Vietnamese: thiên lý, Telosma cordata) is a flowering vine plant also known as Tonkin jasmine and Tonkinese creeper. The name Tonkin jasmine also suggests that its flowers are very sweet-smelling. The flower petals can be dried as used a tea, while its flower buds are often paired with beef in a stir fry dish name bò xào thiên lý (stir-fried beef with cowslip creeper flowers)

cowslip creeper (tonkin jasmine)
Cowslip creeper (tonkin jasmine)

Luffa blossoms

Luffa blossoms (Vietnamese: bông mướp) has similar culinary usage to pumpkin blossoms, but less common. Luffa vine is cultivated for its fruits used as vegetable. There are “male” and “female” flowers on a luffa vine. So only male flowers are harvested as vegetables.

luffa blossoms
Luffa blossoms

Pomelo flowers

Although not used in cooking, pomelo flowers (Vietnamese: bông bưởi or hoa bưởi) are used to “marinate” or flavor tea because of its fragrance. Pomelo flower tea is not only aromatic, attractive, but also helps to cleanse the body, reduce stress effectively.

pomelo flower tea
Pomelo flower tea

Bauhinia variegata flowers

Bauhinia variegata (Vietnamese: hoa ban), also known as orchid tree or mountain ebony, is a species of flowering plant in the legume family, Fabaceae. In Vietnam, the plants can be found in the northwest region where their flowers can be stir-fried with bamboo shoots, or stewed with pig trotters. Its edible buds can be tossed in salad dishes.

mountain ebony flower salad
Mountain ebony flower salad

Lotus flowers

In Vietnam, many parts of a lotus plant have culinary uses. Lotus flowers are more likely to be used as a decorative flower. Lotus petals are often used to flavor tea leaves to make Vietnamese lotus-flavored tea. In cooking, lotus petals can be used to flavor steamed rice or other ingredients.

lotus petals
Lotus petals in a Vietnamese dish

Water lilies

Just like “điên điển” Sesbania flowers, water lilies are also used by the Mekong River residents to make many delicious dishes. The water lily stalks can be peeled and sliced to be used in salad dishes. They can also be used as vegetable in hotpot dished, in sour soup, or as pickled vegetable.

water lilies cooked with eel
Water lilies cooked with eel

Flame flowers

Delonix regia is a species of flowering plant in the bean family Fabaceae and has some names like royal poinciana, flamboyant, flame of the forest, or flame tree. In Vietnamese, is called phượng (meaning phoenix), or phượng vĩ (phoenix tail). In some parts of the southern Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, the “phoenix” flowers can be used to make a chicken salad dish. Chicken is boiled and shredded, tossed with flame flowers, bean sprouts, herbs, roasted peanuts, scallions, chili, lime juice and spices.

chicken salad with phoenix flowers
Chicken salad with “phoenix” flowers

Artichokes

Artichoke is a symbolic flower of Da Lat, a city in Vietnam and is quite popular because it is both used as a tea, and used as a nutritious food. In Vietnamese cuisine, artichoke flowers are often made into stew dishes with meat, or bones.

artichoke soup
Artichoke soup with trotters

Roselle flowers and leaves

Flower buds and leaves from roselle plant (Hibiscus Sabdariffa, Vietnamese: bụp giấm) have a sour taste. The Vietnamese also called roselle as “red artichoke”, and use it as a herbal tea or syrup. In cooking, they can be used to add acidity in canh chua, Vietnamese sour soup.

candied roselle flowers
Candied roselle flowers (Vietnamese: mứt bụp giấm)

Cobblers pegs flowers

Bidens pilosa (Vietnamese: xuyến chi) may have some names like cobblers pegs, black-jack, beggarticks, farmer’s friends or Spanish needle. In Vietnam, during the Vietnam War, soldiers adopted the herb as a vegetable, which led to it being known as the “soldier vegetable”. Nowdays, the herb is still considered as a wild herb, rather than a mainstream veggie. In cooking, its edible shoots including its flowers can be used in stir fry dishes or in soups.

stir-fried cobblers pegs
Stir-fried cobblers pegs

Cauliflower and broccoli

In Vietnam, cauliflowers were introduced by the French, and are more popular than broccoli because they are less bitter. Stir fry dishes with these ingredients are common.

stir-fried beef with broccoli
Stir-fried beef with broccoli

Chive Flowers

In Vietnam, the leaves of garlic chives, known as hẹ, are cut up into short pieces and used as the only vegetable in a broth with sliced pork kidneys. Flowering chives (Vietnamese: bông hẹ) are oval unopened buds on green stems, and have crunchy texture. Chive flower buds are often used in stir fry dishes.

stir-fried chive flower buds
Stir-fried chive flower buds

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