Pak Chii Farang / Sawtooth Coriander


This is an uncommon herb, but used in many Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese soups and other dishes. I was amazed a few months ago when I spotted it at the Herbana Farms stall at the Salcedo market; Gil Carandang advised that I should try it in soups, and I have always meant to, but never found the right recipe. Then, while doing some research on the ultimate Tom Yam Gung, I noticed that some recipes called for the Sawtooth coriander and now I had something try it in, so I quickly ran out to the market and bought a few leaves… Sawtooth Herb or coriander as it is known in English (Eryngium foetidum), or ngo gai to the Vietnamese, has a wonderful smell, very similar to coriander, but it has long leaves and a distinctive saw like pattern at leaf’s edge…


It is fragrant and tasty and adds a bit more authentic touch to one’s Indochinese or Thai soups/dishes. I could barely find any information on this herb in my many reference books (no mention in Alan Davidson’s books), but there were little blurbs in David Thompson’s wonderful award winning cookbook entitled “Thai Food,” and Bruce Cost’s “Asian Ingredients.” A few folks emailed me after the earlier post on Tom Yam Gung asking what this herb was… so here is the little information that I could unearth about it… if you are aware of other different uses or dishes that would benefit from this herb, your comments would be greatly appreciated!


24 Responses

  1. Me and my friends always search for new restaurants. We dont eat 2x in one restaurant to try different varieties.

    I had eaten only in probably 2-3 Thai restaurants. What are your favorite Thai restaurants in the Philippines? I am planning to go to Bangkok this March.


  2. That’s wonderful information again, MM. I love this soup but haven’t made it for quite some time. Nice of Gil to come up with surprises every now and then. Beat Thai restaurant for me is the one in Dusit hotel in Pasay Road. The menu offerings are not the usual ones.

  3. I remember seeing potted plants of sawtooth coriander for sale at Market Market… might be a good addition to my herb garden

  4. The Thais use this a lot in their broth making I would say the equivalent of a leek in Western kitchen and in their salad and soup too. The Vietnamese use this in their sandwiches.

  5. Hello MM, I have this coriander in my garden, but didn’t know what kind of coriander it is.. thanks for the info.

  6. Madeline, we have tried the Thai restaurant at the Dusit Thani Hotel, it’s generally thought of to be quite good, but the one meal we had there was not particularly memorable, and rather pricey, but one visit isn’t enough to have a definitive opinion, I think. We also order several Thai dishes at People’s Palace, which is generally reliable, but also pricey. I haven’t really identified a good as Bangkok type eatery… and maybe it has to do with the herbs and spices and their availability here?… corrine, yes, the restaurant at Dusit Thani is pretty authentic, but maybe too sterile, is the word I am searching for… siopao, if you cook Indochinese dishes often it might be a great idea to have a pot of this herb around! MC, cool, I would never think to put these in sandwiches… maybe with shrimp or chicken… hmmm. Kitkathie, lucky you… time to make some soup! :)

  7. Guess what?!! Am happy to add that sawtooth coriander is widely used in Colombian cooking. My aunt whose family hails from Cali , Colombia, has been living in the Philippines since 1963. The sancocho that she taught my lola’s cook to prepare (an oxtail and beef stew similar to our kare kare without the peanut sauce, but with cassava and corn on the cob instead) needs a bunch of sawtooth coriander pureed and added to the stock to give it the unique flavor, plus a slight greenish tinge to the yellow soup. This stew is served with a salsa type sauce made of more coriander, tomatoes and onions in a sweet vinegar. This sancocho can also be made with chicken. Yummmy!!!! How small the world is….there are a few people who grow their own secret stash of this in Manila….

  8. This plant is a wild one that grows almost anywhere in Managua, Nicaragua. Our cook used them as cilantro, and they are also known as that in the country. She used them to spice up the fish ceviche that we all loved as well as for all dishes/salsas that required cilantro. I brought some seeds with me and they grow really wild and fast!
    I use them for almost anything.
    Last year, I bought a small packet of them in a Thai store and it’s labeled “stinky weed” … I wonder if this was a simple error in labelling. But on the other hand, it could be “stinky” too,to some noses not familiar with its odor.
    One advantage of this sawtooth herb is that (personally) it keeps longer than the Chinese parsley, doesn’t bolt into seeds fast like the cilantro/coriander.
    Thanks for featuring this. Now I know it’s called sawtooth coriander!

  9. I use this herb like I do with cilantro. Sliced thinly and add to thai style soups for garnish and taste, and it’s lovely too, with Vietnamese style noodle salad.

  10. One question: does it taste/smell like cilantro?

    Is anyone familiar with epasote? A friend’s mom has been looking for a plant. It’s also used to spice up stews and soups.

  11. I have this herb, but had no idea how or where to use it. It smell’s a little off-putting, if you ask me, hehe… Will give it a shot, though. Thanks for the info, MM!

  12. This is widely used in Vietnamese dishes. Usually serve as an optional garnish for soup and sandwich or an ingredient in a salad. And I think some call this culantro and not cilantro.

  13. Hi Marketman! I originally discovered this herb from the Leviste’s farm in Pampanga…then I saw it at Gil Carandang’s as well. I am a big fan as I love cilantro and this one is similar in taste but more potent. I posted on it a while back…made a Vietnamese style bulalo with it and it was great! I researched some more and came across the herb in Saveur magazine under the name culantro and apparently it is widely used in the Carribean — the feature was on Trinidad. So I also made Geera Pork with it (you can also find this on my blog) which is a Trinidad-ian dish…also yummy :) This is also an important ingredient in the famous Tinidad-ian dish Chicken Pelau.

    I love how one can travel all over the world on a single herb! :)

  14. We have huge market of Oriental (Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, etc), markets and groceries here in Houston and I did see something like this or epasote, and I think I een bought a bunch and added them to my sinigang na mustasa. It came out good, a little strong, but really not bad. I’ll try to ask some of the teller and ask them what other way they use them other than topping it in the soup.

  15. This is very common in Vietnamese noodle dishes.

    Even the ordinary wansoy in the Philippines has a peculiar odor. Isn’t it sometimes nicknamed amoy surot (smells like bedbugs)?

  16. i love this in pho and banh mi (the vietnamese baguette sandwich). a small vietnamese community grows them here in davao, apparently for their own use only, as i haven’t seen the herb in the stores.

  17. My cousin-in-law grows this somewhere in Antipolo. It does taste like cilantro although I found it milder and smoother (as MM said). I minced it and put some salt then dipped ripe pineapple (sarap) although I think it’s better to trim the edges when eaten raw. It felt a little sharp.

  18. It is a main stay of cooking in Puerto rico.

    It is quite a common ingredient in Mexico and the rest of south america where it is endemic to.

  19. many expats of here in davao who are of south american origin grow the herb at home. I like the strong smell and put it in place of the herder to grow coriander. If not carefull it becomes a weed as they seed quite well.

  20. i spotted this wonderful herb in my kitchen garden when we shifted to our house in Dimapur, nagaland(india). I was quite amazed at the striking resemblence of the smell of this herb with our very own favorite coriander.Now we use in in almost all our dishes as a flavouring agent. It has got a fantastic aroma, and makes really delicious chutneys and curys.

  21. Bandhania is the name for it in Trinidad. It’s Hindi for ‘Broad leaf herb’. It’s delicious in curry dishes and chutneys.

  22. It took me a week to research on this herb. I had to because I could not believe the lady who sold me this herb when I went to Tagaytay, she said that it was a coriander. Finally, I found out that it is called “culantro”. I got if from wikipedia. I love its smell, it always puts me in the mood to eat thai food. *sniff* By the way, I have this in my herb container garden. :)



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