Cuu ky is an herb that my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother) would often cook during the summers because it was "cooling." I've posted before about the concept of hot and cold, or yin and yang foods in Chinese food therapy. Without a common English name, or scientific classification though, I can't offer up much info. I just know it's supposed to be good for me. I've never eaten it raw, only in a light broth-based soup.
The plant looks like the picture below. The stems can get wooden if it's too old. There's also a few thorns, so be careful. Pluck the leaves only to make the soup. My second-youngest aunt was in town recently during a heat wave and made a "cooling" healthy soup with cuu ky and rau ma (Vietnamese pennywort).
This soup is not intended to be a meal. Think of it more along the lines of miso soup, sort of a palate cleanser for the main course. Cuu ky tastes slightly bitter, so of course it has to be good for you, otherwise why would anyone eat it? You can eat this soup alone, or spooned over rice.
Canh Rau Cuu Ky (Vietnamese (Chinese) Boxthorn Soup)
Canh (Vietnamese soup broth), I suggest making a pork broth with a few dried dates to counteract the bitterness of cuu ky
As many cuu ky leaves as you'd like, about 2 or 3 stems is sufficient
Make the Canh (Vietnamese soup broth).
Pluck leaves off the cuu ky stems and wash thoroughly.
When the broth starts boiling, add the cuu ky leaves. They'll cook almost immediately.
Serve plain or with rice.
June 1, 2008 update: That was quick! Thanks to Robyn (of Eating Asia I'm assuming?), the common English name for these leaves are Chinese boxthorn. There are hundreds of varieties and I got a bit confused because the leaves of the African boxthorn look quite different. Plus, this low shrub-like plant has no berries that I know of. But the ASEAN Postharvest Horticulture Network has a picture that looks exactly like my plant. In Chinese, it's called kau kei/guo qi and though the Vietnamese spelling is off, kau ky is the same phonetics.
According to Wikipedia, the boxthorn was known to European herbalists and used in traditional Chinese medicine for several thousand years. Some species bear wolfberries, which are sometimes called a "superfruit" because of its health and commercial value.
My other Vietnamese canh recipes:
Canh Bap Cai Bac Thao (Vietnamese Napa Cabbage Soup)
Canh Bap Cai Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Cabbage Soup)
Canh Bi Voi Tom (Winter Melon Soup with Shrimp)
Canh Bi/Bau Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Pork-Stuffed Winter Melon Soup)
Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup)
Canh Chua Tom (Vietnamese Sour Shrimp Soup)
Canh Cu Sen (Vietnamese Lotus Root Soup)
Canh Du Du (Vietnamese Papaya Soup)
Canh O/Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup)
Canh Tao/Rong Bien (Vietnamese Seaweed Soup)
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'd like to participate, see who's hosting next week. WHB is hosted this week by me. :)
1 year ago today, goi xoai xanh (Vietnamese green mango salad).