What I've learned the most from blogging is how food is universal. I've mentioned before that rau den (Vietnamese amaranth) was a weed that my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother) picked during times of famine to feed her family. It grew everywhere, matured quickly, and was packed with nutrients. What I didn't know until I started blogging, and participating in Weekend Herb Blogging, was that Greeks ate it too! From Peter of Kalofagas, I found out that Greeks call amaranth greens vlita.
According to Wikipedia, amaranth has been called the "crop of the future" because it is easily harvested, is very fruitful, withstands arid conditions, and provides large amounts of protein and amino acids. There are more than 60 species of amaranth ranging from ornamental varieties such as the flowering "love lies bleeding" to edible varieties where the leaves, stems, and seeds can be eaten.
I'm actually not very sure what variety I have. The top picture was taken in the yard. It's not something that's actually planted, my relatives have plenty that always spring up each year. I like the leaves best when they're young and tender, but you can eat them when they're more mature as well. In Asian supermarkets, they're often called "red spinach" and look like what you see below.
My grandmother would simply boil them in salted water and we'd dip the greens in either mam ruoc (Vietnamese shrimp paste) or nuoc mam cham (Vietnamese fish dipping sauce).
Rau Den Luoc (Vietnamese Boiled Amaranth Greens)
Rau den, however many you wish
Salt, however much you want added to the boiling water
The leaves and stems are edible, although you might want to discard thick stems. Separate the leaves, discarding bug-eaten parts. Trim the stems down to a few inches. Triple wash the greens and set them aside to drain.
Heavily salt a pot of water and add the amaranth leaves. They cook quickly so remove them when they've softened, after a few minutes. Don't worry if the water in the pot is red, I guess that's partly why it's called "red spinach."
Drain and serve with rice and Mam Ruoc (Vietnamese Fermented Shrimp Paste) or Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce).
Who else made amaranth?
Peter of Kalofagas prepared it Greek-style with olive oil and lemon juice.
I'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food blogging event created by Kalyn's Kitchen celebrating herbs, vegetables, or flowers.
If you would like to participate, see who's hosting next week. WHB is hosted this week by Amy and Jonny of We Are Never Full.
1 year ago today, on the yin and yang of food, traditional Chinese medicine, and eating bird spit.