Finding Lang Basil

by Ramona on March 24, 2010

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I love to grow and cook with Basil as you can see from my blog at Ramona’s Basil Garden. I have a post where I am searching for the mysterious Chocolate Basil.  Now I am searching for Láng Basil!  There are other Vietnamese Basils that are similar, but this particular basil is grown in the Láng village.  It’s not offered from any of the seed companies, nor from Vietnam.  I will have to find someone near Hanoi that can go to the Láng village and send me some seeds.  I would love to have this basil in my collection!

Since I am trying to cook my Vietnamese recipes using as close to authentic ingredients, then putting an American twist to them, I would love to taste Láng Basil in my recipes.

Láng Basil : Basil from Láng village, or Láng Basil  is one of THE most famous products in Hanoi capital city. Láng basil has long since been the most characteristic basil/spice plant, it is indispensable in Hanoians daily common meals or feasts. It is also indispensable to residents of the common neighborhood where it is considered as must have staple for gourmets and more well to-do people.

Láng basil with small leaves, round trunk, grows widespread into clusters. The surface of its leaves are dark green, its stems and veins are purple. Its trunk is dark purple too. When being slightly squeezed on finger tips, Láng basil usually releases its aroma in the air which is very luxurious and fascinating.

This precious sweet-smelling basil has been grown in Láng village (near Hanoi) for a very long time. Only being grown on Láng soil, this basil has a specific and desired odor. If  it is being planted on other land or soils, it keeps living and growing but there is no longer the uniqueness of the basil. And in traits of the culinary culture of Hanoi-featured cultural heritage, Láng basil stands out from other aromatic spices and vegetables, and can’t be mingled with them.  It’s a ‘must have’ ingredient in Hanoians’ dishes. And as they say, the best comes from the Lang region itself.

The cultivation of vegetable and spice plants in Láng village began in the 11th century where the growers specialized in specific produces for the royal courts. Villagers of Láng have been growing many kinds of aromatic vegetables and spice plants, but the basil is the most adaptable and it has become a well-known and well regarded specialty. Throughout centuries, there have always been endless beds of the favorable vegetable providing the main source of income for the traditional farmers of the village for many generations. The Láng basil is really their pride and joy and their staple crop in that region of Vietnam.

In late 20th century, the country strongly changed into the development of a market economy. Láng population suddenly increased by 10 thousand people in only five years. However, the farmland of the village decreased rapidly, consisting of only about a tenth of the previous cultivated area. However, many families plug along and still persistently keep the traditional business, as they have an attachment to the aromatic basil.

Despite a low profit, gardeners in the famous trade village of the capital city still take care of the beds of aromatic basil and maintain the quality of the basil which is widely celebrated from this area of Vietnam.

Here is a basil farmer in the Lang village.  The  farmland  of the village is decreasing due to what we would call ‘urban sprawl’, and there is a concern that this special basil can disappear.

So the search is on for a Friend in the Hanoi area!

From My Vietnamese Kitchen,
Ramona Werst

Looking for Láng Basil…

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