15 Jun2007


The betel leaves that I used as a garnish for a mango & prawn salad drew some attention so I figured I should do this post pronto. Although I referred to it as a betel leaf in my post, which it is in fact called in many parts of the world, it is not the leaf of a betel tree, but rather the leaves betel3of a piper betl plant/vine. Confused? Also known locally as ikmo and samat, this leaf is used most commonly to wrap betel nut and sometimes lime and this combination is chewed on… But the betel leaf is also commonly used in Thai and other Indochinese cuisines as a sort of wrapper for a concoction of dried shrimp, peanuts and spices, a dish found in some Thai restaurants, see a related post in Lori’s blog, on Mieng Kham, here. At any rate, an in-law gave us a small plant of betel leaves from a mother plant that I believe was brought in from Thailand or Vietnam. I planted it in our small home kitchen garden and it is absolutely thriving at the moment, sending out multiple vines and growing a relatively lush 50-60 leaves in just a few months.


The leaves are beautiful, a really appetizing green and edible. I read in betel4several links here and here and here of its medicinal, herbal and other uses but frankly, so far, I have only used it as a garnish… I am embarrassed to say that I haven’t even tasted any of the ones from our garden, though I have eaten it several times at different Thai restaurants before, where it just didn’t float my boat, if you know what I mean…



  1. Apicio says:

    Ah so there is little danger then of a red-lipped Marketman perpetually within spitting reach of a spitoon.

    Jun 15, 2007 | 7:17 pm


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  3. Marketman says:

    Actually, we had a fabulous spitoon in carved wood…hmmm, I haven’t seen it in 10 years…I wonder where we left it, hid it, stored it… :)

    Jun 15, 2007 | 7:24 pm

  4. Maricel says:

    Locally, Penaranda, Nueva Ecija is known to produce a most sought after ikmo leaf.

    Jun 15, 2007 | 8:45 pm

  5. joey says:

    Nice plant MM…the leaves really do look pretty! You are so lucky to have a “kitchen garden” from which to pick everything from fresh herbs to garnishing :)

    Jun 15, 2007 | 9:06 pm

  6. Maria Clara says:

    You have the source of this exotic vine keep it thriving and perpetuating it I saw an exotic tropical arrangements at a five star hotel recently and guess what – they commissioned those leaves as the focal point of their arrangements. The leaves were tucked at the base of the vase and in the middle supported by a florist wire and anchored with a stick at the vase with ginger flowers and orchids.

    Jun 16, 2007 | 12:38 am

  7. Gia says:

    Hi marketman,

    just wanted to know if this leaf is the same as the alagaw leaf and if so, where is it available to be purchased. I have tried the alagaw leaf but once and absolutely loved it. Just can’t seem to find it anywhere. Would appreciate if if you could post the appetizer that uses this leaf as one of its ingredient.


    PS. love your site!

    Jun 16, 2007 | 5:51 am

  8. Marketman says:

    Gia, this is not alagaw (premna odorata), there is more info on the net if you google “alagaw.” If you go back a few posts to a Diplomatic Dinner… there is an appetizer with the betel leaf as a garnish… Joey, actually the “kitchen garden” only looks good in close up photos and cropped shots… thriving at the moment… laurel, grape leaves, betel, kaffir lime, galanggal, alugbati, pandan, kalamansi, siling labuyo, oregano and tanglad. Dying as I type – italian parsley, rosemary, basil. Dead again and again – thyme and other western herbs!

    Jun 16, 2007 | 10:29 am

  9. tulip says:

    Marketman, maybe before eating it try to chew it first. It is “nganga” after all, just add the nut and some lime or kalamansi. It stains though, bloody red teeth rather than pearly white teeth. hehehe

    Jun 16, 2007 | 10:41 am

  10. Ed says:


    Actually, that’s the wrong type of “lime” – the lime used in nganga is apog, the white, ashy stuff. This is needed with the combination of piper betel leaf and areca nut to create the chemical reaction that turns saliva red once it hits the air.

    Jun 16, 2007 | 3:56 pm

  11. Marketman says:

    lime = apog = calcium carbonate (or pulverized marble!), see link here. :)

    Jun 16, 2007 | 4:20 pm

  12. tulip says:

    hehehe..I knew apog as lime the compound, didnt know lime in “nganga” is apog, sorry. I only saw old folks taking “nganga” on TV too.

    Jun 16, 2007 | 7:24 pm

  13. Apicio says:

    We can use slaked lime for apog to distinguish it from citrus lime (dayap).

    Jun 16, 2007 | 9:09 pm

  14. Dodi says:

    Hi MM,
    For Gia: “Alagaw” leaves come from a tree and these trees thrives just about everywhere in the country. Along our main highways they are choice plants because of their fast growth and good shade. I use “alagaw” for my “sina-ing na isda”, arranging the fish in-between layers of “alagaw” leaves and “kamias”. Uummm, yummy! MM, you should grow “alagaw” in your small garden, just trim it regularly to control its growth. All you have to do is to stick an “alagaw” twig in the ground and watch it grow.

    Jun 18, 2007 | 3:31 pm

  15. Raja says:

    I want know the more details of market of this leaves, because i am former of this leaves. can you please send details to my mail

    Sep 20, 2007 | 6:19 pm

  16. shoba says:


    I want to grow betel piper plants, where can i get its vine, I will appriciate, if you give me some suggestion


    Jul 14, 2008 | 8:07 am

  17. maxlee says:

    Dear Sir/madam :
    I am seeking for betel leaf supplier. if you’re or you know supplier please let me know.thank you.my e-mail address is

    Sep 24, 2008 | 1:08 am

  18. salivakumar says:

    We are full time betel leaf(piper) seller in Malaysia,we are trying to expand our market through out overseas. Please contact us if you have any information regards to this.

    Please contact me Mr.Saliva Kumar( +60192707353)

    Nov 6, 2008 | 2:30 pm

  19. Sam says:

    I am a betel leaf supplier, a piper betel capsule and tincture distributor.If you are interested please let me know. my email address is donamisco@rocketmail.com and movile is 09186610004

    Dec 18, 2008 | 11:55 am

  20. eljer says:

    hi guy’s

    I’m a vendor hir in the phillipines of betel nut, betel leaf and all the stuffs for praparation of nga-nga… If you have some questions reagarding nga-nga, just leave a comment, or if u want to order/buy, hir is my number +63 9282386698

    Dec 24, 2008 | 11:07 pm

  21. eljer says:

    Jan 5, 2009 | 9:05 pm

  22. Eden Claire says:

    I think this is Buyo in my native Lanao

    Aug 25, 2009 | 7:44 pm


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