Rice Paddy Herb or Ngò Ôm is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine but is largely unknown in the western world. In this blog post, I’ll be teaching you about this delicious Southeast Asian herb, how it tastes, where you can use it, and even how you can grow it!
What is Rice Paddy Herb (Ngò Ôm)?
Rice paddy herb (or Ngò Ôm in Vietnamese) is a popular herb used in different Southeast Asian cuisines, most notably Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodian.
It’s a tropical plant that thrives in hot temperature and watery environments, so you can often find it growing alongside rice – hence the name “Rice Paddy Herb”.
What Does Rice Paddy Herb (Ngò Ôm) Taste Like?
NgòÔm has a very distinct citrus and cumin aroma, almost like a cross between lemon zest and cumin. In fact, most people say that this herb is the best substitute for cumin in both Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese food. Personally, I think the bright, acidic flavor in rice paddy herb adds even more depth and freshness compared to using cumin alone.
How to Eat Rice Paddy Herb (Ngò Ôm)
There are so many excellent uses for this dynamic herb. It’s most common use in Vietnamese cuisine is as a garnish for Canh Chua, a sweet and sour seafood soup that we usually serve alongside braised catfish. Though it isn’t incorporated directly in the broth, the bright and savory flavor Ngò Ôm adds to the soup is so distinct that I just can’t imagine Canh Chua without it!
Besides seafood, Ngò Ôm also goes well with beef and alongside other herbs. A great example of this is sesame beef salad with lemongrass, lime, peanuts, and rice paddy herb. The final product is super refreshing and flavorful – a perfect, light summer salad for lunch!
At home, we like to keep things simple by stir-frying it with beef and serving over steamed white rice. This basic recipe makes for a quick and delicious dinner that really lets the flavor of Ngò Ôm shine.
In Southern Vietnam, rice paddy herb is also a staple for beef pho, alongside Thai basil and bean sprouts. However, Vietnamese restaurants in the U.S. typically go without it since it’s not readily available here.
How to Grow Rice Paddy Herb (Ngò Ôm)
By now your mouth is probably watering at the thought of fresh Ngò Ôm. No doubt you want to try it for yourself, right? If you’re able to find some rice paddy herb in your area, you can easily regrow it at home so you can have an endless supply!
Your best bet for finding fresh Ngò Ôm is at the Asian market. Once you’re able to find it, put their stems in water. Within days, you should be able to see roots. Once the roots are about 1 inch long, you can plant your Ngò Ôm in well-hydrated soil. Remember that the herb naturally grows in watery environments like flooded rice fields, so keep the pot moist. There’s almost no risk of over-watering this beautiful and tasty plant, which makes it really easy to cultivate!