• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Spice up your dishes w/ flavorful Asian herbs

August 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Many of us now know to grow things like basil, rosemary and thyme, and those herbs add a special something to your plate. But try to go to the unusual - try tiato, lemon grass, chocolate mint and more.Tiato is not only the name of Catherine An's new restaurant in Santa Monica, it's an herb native to Vietnam.

"It's a very healthy herb full of antioxidants. It's also used to enhance flavors and taste in our cuisine," An said. "It's minty, with a bonus; it has a little bit of like a cinnamon burst to it."

An said her cafe grows the herb and uses it in many of their dishes, like the popular eggplant tofu creation.

"I do have a friend that does not like tofu, but she loves our tiato tofu dish because it has that in it and it gives it that extra kick and flavor to it," An said.

Part of the mint family, tiato is also used in the restaurant's caramelized onion and tomato omelet with turkey sausage.

Lemon grass is another favorite, used to sauté meats or cook seafood, which imparts a lemon ginger-like flavor.

"We have the orange lemon grass shrimp topped with snow peas and Japanese spinach," An said.

Rather than using the leaves, the stem of the plant is sliced thin for cooking.

When it comes to the kaffir lime plant, both fruit and leaves are used.

"This is so easy for anyone to do at home. You just get some great Greek yogurt, and you mince a little kaffir lime in it," An said.

A rub of fresh-minced lime leaves, sage and lemon thyme makes savory combination.

"We used all, practically all, the herbs we have in our garden to brine the chicken with," An said.

A combination of lemon grass and chocolate mint makes a wonderful morning caffeine-free tea when sweetened with a touch of honey.

As far as growing the herbs, anything in the mint family, like tiato and chocolate mint, are very hearty herbs and relatively easy to grow.

Lemon grass prefers partial shade and also does well in the Southern California climate.

To buy tiato plant:

Nobi Nursery
(310) 478-8338
2001 Sawtelle
Los Angeles 90025

Tiato seeds can also be purchased at Tiato the restaurant:
Tiato Santa Monica
2700 Colorado Avene
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310) 866-5228

What is Tiato?
Tia To (or called Tiet To) is a Vietnamese version of Hojiso, with slightly smaller leaves but much stronger aromatic flavor. Tiato is an annual bush plant.

What does Tiato look like?
Leaves have green color on the top side and purplish red on the bottom side

Where do you plant Tiato seeds?
Plants can be grown in open field or container as a wonderful ornamental plant in the backyard. Perfect for Southern California.

What climate does Tiato grow best in?
Plants grow best in a sunny location. Tiato grows vigorously in warm climates.

Steps to grow Tiato from the seed:

  • Start seeds in peat pots indoors and transplant outdoors when the weather is warm.
  • Keep seed pots moist and at a steady warm area for fast germination.
  • Grow plants in rich soil at an area with full sun or partially shady area. Water frequently and feed fertilizer periodically.
  • Pinch the branch tips periodically to promote growing more young branches and leaves.
  • Harvest young tips and leaves for vegetable use at any growing stage.
  • Plants can also be grown in containers as decorative plants.

Plant Spacing 8" - 12"
Row Spacing 12" - 20"
Seed Depth 1/8" - 1/4"
Germination Temp 70 - 85 degrees
Days to Maturity 80

Load Comments