Vegetable for the kings

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Rau tiến vua, once relegated to the fringes of Vietnamese cuisine, is now served as a delicacy at major restaurants

Tiến vua salad is a popular dish in many restaurants

Rau tiến vua (vegetable for the kings) is a lesser known vegetable used primarily in countryside cooking throughout Vietnam, which is becoming more popular in big city cuisine due to its crispy deliciousness.

Rau tiến vua is only as thick as your pinkie. Its stem and leaves come together to form a cylindrical triangle. It grows in the coastal region and is typically harvested in April.

The vegetable can be sun-dried to be preserved for up to a year. The rau tiến vua at the market now is the dried variety. It costs about VND300,000 per kilogram.

Before the vegetable spread to households and restaurants in the cities, it was a popular food for the ethnic peoples of the highlands and mountainous regions.

In these lands, the peoples eat and store the vegetable year round. They also carry dried rau tiến vua on long trips to places with few green vegetables, such as islands.

To prepare the vegetable, soak it in cool water for at least three hours, or up to a half a day. After soaking, the stem will be crispier than the rest and must be marinated in salt and sugar.

Tiến vua salad is a popular dish in many restaurants and customers love to order it as a party-opening appetizer. One tiến vua salad plate tends to go for around VND100,000.

To prepare the dish at home, soak the vegetable in water until it expands and becomes tender and then marinate with sugar and salt.

Next, shred carrots and soak them in sugar and vinegar. Slice onions and soak them in ice water and fry shallots. Then add roasted peanuts and sliced laksa leaves to steamed tiger prawns, and boiled pork belly or boiled pig ear sliced thin.

Serve the salad on a plate accompanied by fish sauce mixed with lemon juice, garlic, chili and sugar.

Some places, such as the Ho Gia Restaurant in Tan Binh District, add deer tendon or beef tendon to the salad in order to make the dish more delicious and exotic.

Apart from the salad, one can use rau tiến vua to make canh chua (sour soup), or stir-fry it with scallops, shrimp or crab meat.

The vegetable can also be pickled. To prepare it, place 400g of sugar in one liter of vinegar then bring to the boil.

Then remove from the heat and add the vegetable with a mixture of vinegar and sugar into the jar. Close the jar tightly. After one day, one can enjoy the pickled vegetable along with braised fish or meat. It will be delicious.

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