Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rau Den Luoc (Vietnamese Boiled Amaranth Greens)

Rau Den (Vietnamese Amaranth) 1

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.

Rau Den (Vietnamese Amaranth) 2

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

Rau Den Luoc (Vietnamese Boiled Amaranth Greens)

You'll need:
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.


  1. WC - I love this dish so much! I'm drooooling over your mam ruoc dip. How can something so simple be so utterly divine? :)

  2. Indians eat this veg. too, often with dal. Though, the kind that we get we can sautee, but aparently there are many kinds of amaranth.

  3. Oo, I never knew what that was called until now. I love this stuff in soups! Yay for yummy and healthy!

  4. I've never seen this before, but now I am so curious to try it.

  5. I didn't think a green herb can have protein in it. Will have to look for it next time I go shopping, as I'm obsessed with getting my kids enough protein.

  6. This looks oddly familiar but I can't remember what it's called.
    Thanks for the info! I only know of the grain but not the greens.

  7. Very interesting post! I'm sure I would know this veggie once I learn the local equivalent :) Does this taste a bit slimy in the mouth? like okra?

  8. Yummy vegetable with beautiful texture. My favorite. Back in Indonesia, we call this 'bayam' or spinach. Cook it as stir fry mostly.

  9. Thanks for teaching us about amaranth! I've seen this plant at farmer's markets and such.

  10. Tia,
    Haha! You and your last meal!

    Maybelle's Mom,
    I didn't know that. I wonder how the Indian version differs. I'd love to be able to saute amaranth.

    I like it in soups too.

    I bet you've seen it in the wild and just didn't know it. It's a ubiquitous weed.

    Amaranth is related to spinach, which is also a good source of protein.

    That's funny! I only know the greens and not the grains. :P

    They don't taste slimy. Although there is a certain mouthfeel of regular spinach, which makes sense since they're related.

    Stir-fried huh? I wonder what variety of amaranth that is too. Maybe I should try stir-frying it again and see if it works this time for me.

    Farmers' markets are where I come upon a lot of various greens too.

  11. So interesting. I've heard a lot about this plant but I don't think I've seen or eaten it. I love how the water turns red. And I agree completely that blogging shows us how food is universal!

  12. I tried cooking with this vegetable once ("red spinach") but wasn't too successful with it. Nobody wanted to eat it, including myself. I think though it might just be the unfamiliarity of it, so I'll be trying this again and see what happens.

  13. Kalyn,
    I've learned so much about different herbs with WHB. It's great!

    How did you cook it? I find that boiling and soup is really the only way I like it.

  14. This is called callaloo in Jamaica and probably on the other caribbean islands as well. It's in Africa and probably everywhere under a different name. Has more nutrients than most vegetables. I'm surprised it's not sold in the stores as it's easier to cook than collards and is much tender with a better flavor. We usually chop it up in very small pieces and saute it with onion and oil in a pan with salt and pepper until tender. Optional shredded cod fish and served with white rice

  15. Ackeegrl,
    A version of it is sold in Asian grocery stores. Look for Chinese red spinach.


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