Home | Directory | Contact | FAQ | Recipes | Restaurants | Vietnamese Recipes | 100 Vietnamese Foods | Subscribe

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Canh Rau Cuu Ky (Vietnamese (Chinese) Boxthorn Soup)

Since I'm hosting Weekend Herb Blogging this week, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to ask my fellow "herb" bloggers if they know of a common English name for the Vietnamese herb cuu ky? At the Asian grocery store, it's just labeled as cuu ky herb leaf, so no luck there.

Canh Cuu Ky 1

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).

Canh Cuu Ky 2

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)

You'll need:
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.

Canh Cuu Ky 3


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).


  1. i'll cook something tonight to participate on WHB , you are the host of course :-)

    ps, i've never seen nor tasted this vegetable!! looks like this is a great comfort soup!!

  2. mmm...looks delicious. Reminds me of spinach soup. :)

  3. Man, if you don't know then I don't know who does. I can ask my cousins though! :)

  4. Might those be boxthorn leaves (Lycium chinense, lycium barbarum, gow gei in Cantonese?). The photo in my reference book isn't great but the description (bitter, usually used in soups, cooling) thinks they might be them. They're all over the place in Malaysia, esp at Chinese markets.

  5. Dhanggit,
    Did I miss your entry? Or you missed this go-round?

    Cooking Ninja,
    It is very similar to spinach.

    Haha! Thanks for the vote of confidence but I don't know everything! :P

    Yes! Thank you!

  6. That does look like boxthorn leaves aka wolfberry plant. We have a bunch of it in our yard. We harvest the leaves every few months. It's also suppose to help replenish one's blood. I suppose it's mostly bec. it's high in iron??

  7. So interesting. I love these posts you do about unusual Asian herbs. I wish I could taste it, maybe I'll ask at my garden store to see if they've ever heard of it.

  8. Thanks to you, I finally know what those are call. My mum would make those with an added egg.

  9. So many edible things out in the world that I am so ignorant of!
    The soup looks delicious!

  10. the mediterranean people living oint he island know how good greens are for you - i've never realised boxthorn can be eaten - from what i understand, you eat the leaves cooked, but not raw?

  11. Win,
    Yes, I had also forgotten it was high in iron.

    I think a lot of the posts I do are really about eating weeds. :P

    Great idea! I think I will make an omelet with them some day.


    Mediterranean kiwi,
    I'm not sure if you can eat them raw. I've only had them in this soup.

  12. I've learn a new English word for a vegetable today! I thought I've eaten those in soups too but I did not know what it was...suspecting it was some kind of spinach too.

  13. Is this plant with thorns? It looks like Kau Kei (Cantonese). Usually i add in salted egg or beaten egg.

  14. Tigerfishy,
    There's so many herbs I'm familiar with, but never knew the English words before. Food blogging is great huh?

    Yes, I said there's thorns and it's called kau kei in Cantonese in my post.


Thank you for stopping by. I try to respond in a timely manner, but am not always able to do so. If you're awaiting a response, check the post in which the comment is made or click the "Notify me" option.

If you're not a blogger and you'd like to leave a comment, you can do so using your Google/Gmail account.

I welcome questions, discussions, and feedback, but please be mindful that this is my home online. I reserve the right to delete any comment that is anonymous or unknown, rude, promotional, or has a link.

Thank you for reading!