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Asian Herbs


anise basil  Notes:  This is used in Southeast Asia.  Substitutes:  holy basil OR basil + mint

Asian basil

bai gaprao

bai kraprao

bai makrut


bai-toey = bai toey = bai touy  Notes:  This name is also used for screwpine leaves.  Bai-toey leaves are about four inches in diameter, and smell a bit like a dentist's office.  Look for them in Southeast Asian markets. 

betel leaf = pupulu  Notes:  The Vietnamese wrap beef in these leaves, while others chew them like gum.   Substitutes:  shiso OR grape leaves

chile leaf = chilli leaf = chili leaf = la ot = rau ot  Notes:  This herb isn't nearly as hot as the chile that comes from the same plant.  It's sometimes used as a cooking green in Southeast Asia.  Substitutes:  spinach (not as pungent)


Chinese chives = gow choy = garlic chives = ku chai   Notes:   Unlike regular chives, these have flat leaves and a distinct garlicky flavor.  Substitutes:  garlic shoots OR chives (not as pungent as Chinese chives) OR flowering chives  

 daun kesom

daun pandan

daun salam


flowering chives = flowering Chinese chives = flowering garlic chives   Notes:  These come from the same plant as Chinese chives.  They're usually marketed and cooked before the buds open.  Substitutes:  garlic shoots OR Chinese chives (not as pungent)  

gow choy

 hairy basil


holy basil = bai kaprao = bai kaprow = bai gaprao = bai kraprao   Notes:   This has jagged leaves.  It's fairly pungent, so it's rarely eaten raw.  Substitutes:  basil (This isn't as spicy as holy basil.) OR basil + mint OR  basil + ground pepper OR basil + crushed red chili peppers

Indonesian bay leaf = daun salam = salam leaf   Substitutes:  curry leaves OR bay leaves


Indonesian lime leaves


kaffir lime leaf = makroot leaf = makrut lime leaf = magrood leaf =daun jeruk purut = daun limau purut = bai makrut = Indonesian lime leaves  Notes:  A kaffir lime leaf look as if two glossy, dark green leaves were joined together end to end, forming a figure-eight pattern.  Most Thai recipes count each double leaf as two separate leaves.  Frozen kaffir lime leaves are a good substitute for fresh.  Dried leaves are much less flavorful, so use twice as many as the recipe calls for if you're substituting them for fresh leaves.  Substitutes:  lime leaves  OR kaffir lime (One tablespoon of zest from a kaffir lime is equivalent to about 6 kaffir lime leaves.) OR lime zest (One tablespoon of zest from a lime is equivalent to about 6 kaffir lime leaves.) OR lemon leaves OR lemons (One tablespoon of zest from a lemon is equivalent to about 6 kaffir lime leaves.)

ketumbar = daun ketumbar   Notes:   This is hard to find, but Asian markets sometimes carry them.   Substitutes: cilantro



laksa leaf = daun kesom = rau ram = Vietnamese mint = water pepper = Vietnamese coriander  Notes:  Vietnamese sprinkle this herb on their laksa soups. It has a strong, minty, peppery flavor.  It's sold in bunches with lots of pointy leaves on each stem.  Substitutes:   mint OR equal parts mint and cilantro

la-lot leaf = la lot leaf = pepper leaf   Notes:  These are used as meat wrappers in Vietnam.  Substitutes:  shiso leaves OR grape leaves

lemon basil = bai maengluk = bai manglak = kemangi  Notes:  This has a lemony flavor, and small, pointed, fuzzy leaves.   Thai cooks toss it into soups, salads, and noodle dishes.  Substitutes:   basil + mint OR sweet basil

lemongrass = lemon grass = citronella = fever grass = serai = sereh = takrai   Equivalents:  1 small, trimmed stalk = 1 teaspoon sereh powder = 1 tablespoon dried lemon grass  Notes:   Thai cooks use these grayish green stalks to impart a lemony flavor to their dishes.  Remove the outer leaves, then use about six inches of the base, discarding the top and the very bottom.  It's best to cut lemongrass into large pieces that can be easily removed after the dish is cooked.   Frozen lemongrass is a good substitute for fresh, but dried lemongrass (soaked in hot water) is only a fair substitute.  Use powdered version (called sereh powder) only in a pinch.    Substitutes:  lemon zest (zest from 1 lemon = 2 stalks lemon grass) OR lemon verbena OR lemon balm OR lemon leaves

licorice basil

ma grood leaf

makroot leaf

makrut lime leaf


mitsuba = trefoil = honewort   Notes:  The Japanese use this to flavor soups and salads.  Substitutes:  watercress

rice paddy herb = ngo om    Notes:  Vietnamese and Thai cooks use this herb in soups and curry dishes.  Substitutes:  sawleaf herb OR cilantro

pandan leaf

pandanus leaf


rampe leaf

rau ram

salam leaves


sawleaf herb = ngo gai  Substitutes:  cilantro (very similar flavor) OR mint OR basil

screw pine leaf = screwpine leaf = bai toey =bai touy = pandanus leaf  = daun pandan = pandan leaf = kewra = rampe leaf   Notes:  These sword-shaped leaves are about two feet long.  Look for plastic bags of folded leaves among the frozen foods in Asian markets.  Substitutes: green food coloring (for color, not flavor) OR vanilla + green food coloring (different flavor)

serai powder = sereh powder  See:  lemon grass


sesame leaf  Notes:  This comes from the same plant that gives us sesame seeds.  Koreans use them to wrap packets of meat or as a fresh herb.  Substitutes:  romaine lettuce (as a wrapper)

shiso = perilla = beefsteak plant  Notes:  The Japanese mostly use this pungent herb to flavor pickled plums.  It comes in two colors:  red and green.   Substitutes:  mint 


sweet Asian basil = sweet basil = bai horapha = bai horapa  Notes:  This has a pleasant anise flavor, and is the most commonly used basil in Thailand.     Substitutes:  holy basil OR ordinary basil OR basil + mint 


Thai basil  = licorice basil  Notes:   Thai basil has purple stems and flowers.  It has a milder flavor than holy basil.  Substitutes:  basil OR mint


tia to = tia tô   Notes:  These leaves are purple on one side and green on the other.  They have a pleasant, peppery flavor that tastes a bit like cinnamon.  Vietnamese cooks often add them to soups at the last minute.  Substitutes:  shiso OR sweet Asian basil

Thai basil

Vietnamese mint

water pepper


yellow Chinese chives = yellow garlic chives = yellow chives   Notes:   These are Chinese chives that have been shielded from the sun in order to stifle the production of chlorophyll.  Use them just like ordinary Chinese chives.  Substitutes:  Chinese chives



1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried

Copyright © 1996-2005  Lori Alden