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Friday, February 01, 2008

Nuoc Rau Ma (Vietnamese Pennywort Juice)

Nuoc Rau Ma (Vietnamese Pennywort Drink) 1

Long before wheatgrass juice became a health and juice bar trend, the Vietnamese have been drinking nuoc rau ma (Vietnamese pennywort juice). Pennywort (centella asiatica) is a member of the carrot and dill family. It is also known as gotu kola in the Sri Lankan Sinhalese language.

There are numerous health benefits, according to Wikipedia and Asia Food, which include maintaining youthfulness, purifying the blood, curing nervous conditions, improving eyesight and memory, and relieving arthritis pain. Tai chi chuan master Li Ching-Yuen apparently lived to 256 years old, in part because of pennywort. And 10th century Sri Lankan king Aruna credits pennywort for giving him enough stamina to satisfy his harem of 50 women.

Rau Ma (Vietnamese Pennywort)

I couldn't find any Vietnamese tales of pennywort's greatness. I just know it's healthy and I've enjoyed drinking nuoc rau ma for as long as I can remember. But how does it taste you ask? A little grassy. Maybe a bit like cucumber water. Not quite minty, but with an underlying herbal freshness flavor. I can't quite describe it because it doesn't taste like anything else. I think, like cilantro, pennywort is a love or hate it herb.

My preferred method of ingesting pennywort is as a fresh drink. I've also sometimes made it into a light soup. There's also a recipe for Sri Lankan pennywort salad so I may have to try that some day. Anyone know of any other pennywort dishes?

 Rau ma is readily available at almost any Vietnamese restaurant. I first mentioned it on this blog about a year ago when I met up with some OC Food Blog folks for dim sum at Dragon Phoenix Palace Chinese Seafood Restaurant in Westminster. I tend to order it a lot when I dine out during the dog days of summer like at Brodard Restaurant in Garden Grove, Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa in Alhambra, and Com Tam Thuan Kieu in San Gabriel.

 Although you can find it available in cans at the grocery store, it tastes worlds better fresh. And it's super easy to make at home. It's a swamp herb that likes moisture, so if you grow watercress, you can grow pennywort. Otherwise, look in your local Asian grocery store, preferably Vietnamese since I'm not sure how popular this is with other Asians, to see if they have it in stock.

Pennywort leaves go bad fast so make the drink within a day or so of buying them. The recipe is so simple that you can easily make a big pitcher to leave in the fridge. I'm not sure how long it lasts because frankly, it doesn't last very long in my house. And now that I know its reported health benefits, maybe I should drink even more. :)

Nuoc Rau Ma (Vietnamese Pennywort Drink) 2
Nuoc Rau Ma (Vietnamese Pennywort Juice) 

You'll need:
As much pennywort leaves as you'd like, washed,
As much sugar, or sugar substitute, as you'd like

When picking through pennywort leaves, just pluck off the bottom part of the stems where dirt may linger. Triple wash.

Nuoc Rau Ma (Vietnamese Pennywort Drink) 3

A little bit goes a long way so make this drink as light or as concentrated as you'd like. Add pennywort leaves to blender with at least enough water to cover the leaves. Try a 2:1 ratio of water to leaves and adjust from there. Add a spoonful or so of sugar, adjust according to your sweet tooth. Puree until leaves are completely obliterated.

Then using a fine-mesh colander, strain out the leafy sludge. Taste and add sugar or water if necessary.

Serve poured over ice. Store the remainder in the fridge.


 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 this week. WHB is hosted this week by Claudia of Fool for Food.

1 year ago today, some of my favorite restaurant and business names.


  1. Fascinating! Thanks for the informative post! I'll keep my eye out for some fresh pennywort.

    1. So yummy and so good! I am drinking fresh pennywort juice now. No sugar though... although I had to acquire this taste and slowly go from using lots of sugar to no sugar.

  2. I'm in the "not fond of rau ma" camp, but my mom often makes/gets it for my dad. I think they just consider it to be "cooling".

  3. My dad makes it whenever we can find it here which isn't that often. But he is the only one that drinks it in our family. I know my grandma use to pick it off the vine that we had when we lived in New Orleans. But I don't know if I would like it. Yours looks so much better then the one my dad makes though.

  4. I wonder how will this taste like.. hmm..interesting.

  5. oh what an amazing green color!! fantastic!!

  6. Very interesting. I would love to try it! I'm guessing I would like it because I haven't run across too many herbs I didn't like. Great post, and you know I get so excited when I learn about something new.

  7. My favorite drink when its done fresh not like the nasty over sugared one at Bolsa Asian mall.

    And Happy New Year!!!!

  8. So cool to see someone make it fresh from the herbs. You rock with this one WC! I've been to a restaurant where they added apple juice to rau ma to sweeten it up a bit. Not too bad!

  9. Anna,
    I hope you like it!

    I think it is. That's why I drink it all the time during the summer.

    Rau ma is not a vine. It's like lots of mini lily pads. Perhaps it was something else your dad picked and that's why you didn't like it?

    I know. I did a horrible job of describing its taste.

    Thanks! It's a nice fresh green.

    I was thinking of your love of cilantro when I was describing pennywort.

    I can't stand the overly sweet stuff either.

    Apple juice huh? I like my rau ma undiluted myself.

  10. So, let me get this straight...drink pennywart and live 256 years with a giant schlong! Sign me up!

  11. Anon,
    Tut, tut. Typical guy. It's not always about size. I didn't say the Sri Lankan king had a big you-know-what. I said the pennywort gave him enough stamina to please 50 women. Stamina.

  12. hrmmm I just drink the whole thing without filtering it.. it's the same as filtering.. just make sure you run it in the blender for 5 minutes ^,^ Tasty stuffs..

  13. Cantrepass,
    Filtering gets rid of the sludge that can muddy the taste and appearance of the drink.

  14. This is the most refreshing drink ever! My wife's parents always prepares this fresh in the summer time with little to no sugar it is simply amazing. I just started growing my own pennywort so I can't wait to make my own batch

  15. lee sandwich now have bottled pennywort drink.... i need to look for somewhere in West LA area i can find these

  16. i love drinking Nuoc Rau Ma. i just came back from vietnam two days ago and when i was there i drank nuoc rau ma every day. it was tasty :]

  17. Hey thanks to your Blog!

    This plant is also called Bai Bua Bok or simply "asian" pennyworth in Thailand where it is a very popular drink (often over-sweetened though). I healed from dengue fever in 2 days by drinking a litre per day of an infusion (tea) of these leaves.

    I like it with very little sugar, tastes bitter and the freshness makes it very pleasant!

  18. Krissy,
    I love it best during the summer too. It's so refreshing.

    Bottled fresh pennywort? I wonder if it's much better than the canned stuff? Because that canned stuff is nowhere as good.

    I'd drink it everyday in Vietnam too! So cheap! Rau ma and nuoc mia. :)

    Wow! That's even more proof that pennywort works wonders. I like it with very little sugar as well.

  19. Hello, thanks for sharing this great recipe! I made nuoc rau ma last week, and it was delicious. It would be even better in summer, and I'll definitely be making it again.
    I wrote a post about it on my site, and have linked back to your page.
    Thanks for all the wonderful recipes you share here! There are so many I'd like to try... :)
    Best wishes, Meaghan

  20. Meaghan,
    I looove rau ma. I can drink it everyday. I'm just too lazy to make it though. :P

    Thanks for trying my recipes.

  21. Hi all, for those who like to try the Sri Lankan gotukolla salad (known as gotukolla sambol), here goes; You need a bunch of the leaves with the upper part of the stalk. This is chopped very fine. You also need a cup of grated coconut. Then chop some red onions and some green chillies. mix all this together with a little salt and squeeze a bit of lime into it. Then use your hand to mix it all adding a little pressure so the coconut and all gets squeezed properly together, blending the flavor. Toss into a bowl and serve. This is usualy one of the many dishes served in Sri Lankan rice and curry.
    The quantities are variable, the leaves and coconut are about half-half, add the rest according to your taste. Do not overdo the lime or salt.
    Sri Lanka has so many wonderfull edible greens, this basic recipe is used for many of them.
    You can vary the other ingredients too, like adding some chopped tomatoes instead of lime, or keep the chillies out. Adding a handful of sprouts is also a great raw food version.

    There is also a spicy coconut sambol that comes along with every rice dish here. The same recipe as above minus the leaves, adding a bit of red chilli powder instead, then mix and squeeze well. Eat small amounts alongside another dish to spice things up. This is for those who like it hot!

    Ok, Hope you can get hold of the leaves and some coconut, wherever you are....try it and enjoy.

    1. Rahju, thanks for sharing your Sri Lankan recipes with us. While reading your blog, my mouth is already drooling. The dishes sure sound simple and yummy. I am very familiar with Indian foods but not necessarily Sri Lankan foods. I aasume that there are many similarities for these 2 ethnic cuisines. I simply love food with coconut since many Malaysian foods are make with coconut. My diet consist of mainly raw foods. Your delicious recipes here will definitely be an added gem to my raw diet. Once again, thank you very much.

  22. Hi I've read some of your great blogs. I own a small Grade A Raw milk dairy in Houston/Tomball Texas. I started my whole family on nuoc rau ma and nuoc mat(artichoke)for years and like you we looove it. Now I am offering both at my store, along with wheatgrass. Let see how people respond. Hope you don't mind...I put a copy of part of your blog for people to read and know more about nuoc rau ma. Thanks

  23. Rahju,
    Thanks so much for the recipe! It sounds wonderful and I'd love to try it soon.

    I wonder if the drinks will take off? You mean you printed out my blog post to display at your store? Otherwise, if it's on your website, please just link to me instead.

  24. I remember this drink from childhood in VN & have been racking my brain to figure out what the drink was made of. Pennywort didn't occur to me bec the canned stuff does not taste like the drink I've had in VN. Thanks! Now I just hope VN grocery stores in Seattle have fresh pennyworts!

  25. Lauren,
    I looove rau ma. And yeah, the canned stuff is no where near as good.

  26. I FINALLY had time to go to Chinatown & get the pw. It makes my smoothies taste SO much better & probably healthier too! (frozen blueberries/strawberries/bananas, fresh spinach & pennywort, & apple jc)

    (I actually don't strain it, I throw it in the blender with everything else :)

    1. SaigonCinnamon, you can also use fresh mango or papaya with pennywort to make a green smoothie. I make green smoothies with different types of green veggies all the time. They are awesome ! ! !

  27. Cooking green bean and blend with Rau Ma juice add sugar.I did and you will love Rau Ma more.

  28. Saigon Cinnamon,
    OK, best idea ever! I don't make smoothies often, but I love them and the thought of pennywort in with fruit is awesome.

    Raw ma,
    I had that at Pho Filet and have been meaning to try making it at home!

  29. I just made this! :) I used a juicer first (since I didn't want to strain it), then I blended it with rock sugar, water, and ice. It turned out pretty good!

  30. DSK Steph,
    I've never tried it with a juicer. I wonder which is easier? If it purees easily in the juicer, it sure beats having to strain it.

  31. When I visited Vietnam and ordered the pennywort juice in a coffee bar, all my Vietnamese friends told me I would hate it. They insisted I get it mixed with coconut water.

    The color was a bit off-putting, but it was delicious. I thought it tasted vaguely of spearmint. Would definitely be willing to try it without the coconut.

    Had no idea I could get pennywort here in the USA. Will have to try making it on my own. Thanks so much for posting the recipe!

  32. Lee,
    Hey! Coconut water sounds great in the mix. Would add a nice refreshing touch. Will have to try that.

  33. Nice blog!
    I use a a masticating juicer to extract all the green juice out. You get all the taste without the hanging bits of fiber. As it is 100% pure, mix it down with 2 or 3 parts water, sweeten it up a a bit of honey then dump it in a cup of crushed ice.
    It is hard to describe the taste as you have to use other "green" descriptions:
    lingering herbal like mint and cilantro, earthy but not as cloying grassy as wheatgrass, intense like celery and a bit sappy like bean sprouts, with distinct taste of its own.

    One of these days we would get as critical of how our food is grown to demand and get organic food. Until then a lot of these veggies are Miracle Grow'ed and don't last at all. Stuffs from my garden would last for weeks once picked, they just wilt. Same stuffs from the stores would literally turn mushy and distingrate within a week, faster once exposed to air.

  34. Ken,
    I recently made a batch and didn't bother straining out the pulp. It was fine. But then, I buy orange juice with extra pulp. No problem with more fiber in my diet. I planted pennywort roots, without the leaves, after making my batch and they grew leaves within a few weeks. So easy to grow.

  35. Hi, I'm in Ireland and only have Wall and Marsh Pennyworth. Do you think they would work? Lovely post by the way thanks :)

  36. Barry,
    I'm not sure about wall pennywort, but the marsh pennywort is OK since I also make juice out of that kind.

  37. Does anyone know if I can give my dog some pennywort drink?

  38. I use this as a substitute for breakfast,coffee, and as a daily nootropic. -Golden Pennywort Elixir- Pennywort-2cups,Coconut Milk-2cups,Water-2cups,Ginger-2tsp,Turmeric-2tsp,Ghee-1tsp,For 5x(Sugar-10tsp,Pepper-3tsp)

  39. Uyen,
    Why would you want to? Just give your dog water.

    8lvion8--Ian Yares,
    Pennywort, coconut milk, and ginger sound really refreshing. Not sure about the ghee, even if it's only 1 tsp?


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