bitter_melonBitter Melon (gourd)

Bitter melon is an edible fruit that grows on a climbing vines. Normally harvest when young and still tender it is normally an acquired taste. Although bitter, it does carries a lot of vitamin and mineral that is good for your health. It is grown in a lot of Hmong vegetables gardens and is among the most bitter of all culinary vegetables. The plant is a fast-growing, trailing or climbing vine with thin stems and tendrils which require trellis to support their climbing vines. If you are unable to find these at your local market and would like to try growing these, you can find them here.


Bok Choy

Although this vegetable looked more like a mustard plant, it actually is a type of Chinese cabbage. It has a white smooth base and dark green leaves. It can be eaten raw, but is normally cooked. As with most green leafy vegetable it is back with good amounts of nutrition. Bok Choy is fairly common and can be found in most food markets.


7343430338_a7d425fa51_bChinese Broccoli (Gai lan)

This is a leafy green vegetable that features thick, flat, glossy blue-green leaves with thick stems and flower heads similar to broccoli. Broccoli. It does  belong to the same species as broccoli and tastes similar but has a slightly stronger taste and a touch more bitter.


Chinese Celery

Similar in taste to the western celery, this thinner cousin is used in cooking to add a crispy fresh flavor to Asian dish. The leaves are just as important as the stalk. Generally not found in your standard food market. You can buy seeds and grow them in about 90 days.



A very strong smelling herb, cilantro is readily available year
round. Chop the whole plant, including stalk, unless stalk is too thick. A necessary ingredient in Hmong Egg rolls and Pho. It is an easy herb to grow and can be grown indoor or in a garden. Growing fresh Organic Cilantro from seed is my preferred way to get them.

Green Onion 

Very common to a lot of dish used in Hmong food, green onions are normal staple and is always in my Frig. The Hmong use the entire green onion, not just the white bulb.


Chuaj rog

Pronounced (choo  tog) is a general term for plants used in the Chicken Medicine soup. Translated it means “fat medicine”.


koj liab

A green herbal plant with deep purple stem. used as one of the main ingredients in the Chicken medicine soup.


Lemon Grass

Used in chicken soups, lemon grass has a distinct lemon flavor and odor. Normally sold fresh, dried or frozen. These can be purchased at most Hmong grocery stores, framers market with Hmong vendors. If you want to try growing your own you can by Lemon grass Herb Seeds here. Also available are Lemon Grass Plant in a 4″ Pot.


Mustard Greens

Also know as Gai choy, Chinese mustard, Indian mustard, leaf mustard, Mustard Green is a staple of the Hmong diet.  There are many different variations and types of mustard green. Every Hmong garden I have seen grows some variation of it. It can also be found at the Hmong grocers or at a Hmong vender at a farmer’s market. Some Mustard Greens are sweeter while others are a bit more bitter or pungent tasting. It is used fried, boiled and pickled.

napacabbageNapa cabbage

Normally seen as a Chinese or Japanese green, the nappa cabbage is an excellent substitute for mustard greens. It is sweetness similar to cabbage and cooks quickly. It is also used to wrap pork or other types of meet and steamed. It can be stir fried or added to soups.


Pea tips

Pea tips are just the tips of the pea. Usually 3 to 4 inches from the tip,  they are picked before the peas are formed. To harvest enough tips, make sure to plant a lot of pea plants as you may only get 2-4 tips per plant. Once cooked, the pea tips will shrink down to about 1/3 of the size you started with. If you are stir frying it by itself, make sure you pick more than you think you will serve. Personally, I like eating pea tips stir fried with pork and garlic.

food_-_snow_peas-1Snow Peas

Very common in stir-fries, this vegetable can be used for its tender young leaves or its flat, sweet pods. The leaves are usually only found for sale at a Hmong vender at a farmer’s market. Snow peas can be found at most grocers. Be careful to choose fresh peas without blemishes. Stale peas will be floppy and may have brown edges.

Thai Basil

These are native to Southeast Asia and is an essential ingredient to some traditional Thai dish. It is a cultivar of the sweet basil family and sometimes referred to as cinnamon basil. It has a very strong aroma and can be used cooked or as a garnish. Normally not found in traditional grocery stores you might be able to find these at Asian food markets or buy organic seeds online and grow them yourself.

thai_eggplant_thumbThai Eggplant

These are great cooked or they can be eaten raw in salads. They green and white and normally about the size of a golf ball. When cooked, their flavor is mild with a slightly seedy flesh. When eaten fresh, they are normally quartered and their white and pink flesh is firm and has a somewhat crunchy texture. I often use these in a stew to help thicken the base or in curry. My mother use slice these up and add these to her squirrel stew. Normally not found in traditional grocery stores you might be able to find these at Asian food markets or buy the seeds online and grow them yourself.

thai-peppersThai Peppers 

These spicy peppers start green and turn orange to bright red when fully ripe. Don’t let the colors fool you, no matter the color, they are still very spicy. They range from one and a half to three inches long. If you can get past the spiciness, you can taste a slight hint of lime flavor that most other peppers do not have. If you bike into one, the spiciness hits you almost instantly and lasts for a significant amount of time. These are great chopped with only fish sauce to create an instant spicy dipping sauce. You can normally find these at most Hmong grocers or at a Hmong vender at a farmer’s market. They are best when fresh, but can be stored frozen or dried. Dried Tai peppers can also be ground into a chili powder and added to any dish.