gioi seeds

Gioi pepper

Gioi pepper is a suggested English name for the Vietnamese spice made from the fruits of several Michelia plant of in the family Magnoliaceae. In Vietnam, there are 3 (out of 25) Michela species that can be harvested for their fruits as spice.

  • Michelia tonkinensis (Vietnamese name: giổi or giổi ăn hạt, Synonyms: Michelia gioi, Talauma gioi, Magnolia hypolampra, Michelia hedyosperma)
  • Michelia citrata (giổi chanh, or giổi xanh quả to)
  • Michelia mediocris (giổi xanh)
Michelia tonkinensis
Michelia tonkinensis

Collectively, all three species can be called as giổi, often misspelled as dổi in Vietnamese. They are all native to Vietnam and cultivated for both their wood and seeds. However, the products of the first two spieces (Michelia tonkinensis and Michelia citrata) are widely traded by local people and traders. Michelia mediocris seeds are not traded because they taste too bitter.

Fruits and seeds of Michelia tonkinensis
Fruits and seeds of Michelia tonkinensis


The Michelia plants are usually distributed in mountainous areas with an altitude of about 700m above sea level and in evergreen broadleaf forests. In Vietnam, they are scatteredly distributed from Hòa Bình, Lào Cai, Phú Thọ, Vĩnh Phúc, Yên Bái, Nghệ An to the Central Highlands provinces.

Michelia tonkinensis woods in Phu Tho province
Michelia tonkinensis woods in Phu Tho province


The essential oil extracted from the seed and pulp of the fruit contains safrol 70.2% (fruit pulp) and 72.9% (seed) and methyl eugenol 18.5% (seed), 24.2% (fruit pulp). The essential oil extracted from the stem mainly contains camphor 23.8% and safrol 14.3%.

As spice

In northwestern region of Vietnam, the fragrant roasted giổi seeds are thoroughly pounded and mixed with dry white salt. Gioi pepper salt are as a condiment for cooked chicken, boiled pork or sticky rice.

Roasted (not pound) giổi seeds can also be added to pho broth, or in fish soup with pickled bamboo shoots.

In particular, crushed giổi seeds are a great spice for tiết canh (blood pudding), one of the favorite dishes in many mountainous regions.

Together with other spices espcially with mắc khén pepper, gioi pepper is used to marinate sausages, buffalo meat or fish.

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