What is a Fish-Mint Leaf or Chameleon Plant?
Chameleon plant, botanically named Houttuynia cordata, is a medicinal and edible herb with an aromatic smell. It has been used in Asia for hundreds of years to treat pneumonia, hypertension, constipation, and hyperglycemia via detoxification, reduction of heat, and diuretic action.
There is accumulating evidence of multiple pharmaceutical effects of Houttuynia cordata, such as anti-cancer, anaphylactic inhibitory, antimutagenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antioxidative, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-obesity, and anti-diabetic activities. Anti-viral properties of this herb have become acclaimed while treating against the SARS virus.
Its origin is traced to East Asia. Now, this plant is found in vast areas of India, Nepal, Thailand, China, and Korea. It is also grown as ornamental in Europe and the USA. Often called as Fish mint or Fish wort plant due to its strong raw fishy smell.
The Japanese dokudani cha or Chameleon plant tea is a popular beverage known to be very effective in chronic earaches. In Vietnam, the leaves are used as a leafy vegetable and also for garnishing.
The aromatic leaves and roots are relished in north-east Indian salads such as singju, a combination of raw leaves, lotus root slices, and herbs. Flavoured with sesame seeds, toasted beans, and pungent fermented fish with lots of chillies, it’s a healthy delicacy. Its leaves are also used to prepare fritters with chickpea flour.
In Nepal, where this herb grows widely, leaves and roots are used to flavour pickles. In several southwestern provinces of China, the roots of this herb are consumed as a root vegetable. Fish mint is a storehouse of nutrients like amino acids, vitamins, and trace elements such as potassium, zinc, iron, copper, and manganese. It also contains bioactive compounds such as flavonoids such as quercetin and rutin, D-limonene, alpha-pinene, etc that have antioxidant potential.
Try this indigenous healthy recipes of Assam, using Fish mint leaves:
Lentil fritters with fish mint leaves: These easy-to-make, delicious fritters are an excellent and healthy snack for your kids and a great accompaniment to your afternoon tea.
Red lentil and fish-mint leaves fritters
- 1 cup mixed lentils, red lentil and yellow split gram washed and soaked for 1/2 hour
- 1/2 cup fish-mint leaves
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 1-2 fresh chillies
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger roughly chopped
- salt to taste
- oil for frying
- Drain the soaked lentils, tip into a mixer-grinder or a food processor.
- Add the fish-mint leaves. If the leaves are bigger, roughly tear them.
- Add rest of the ingredients – chillies, onion slices, ginger and salt.Grind into a coarse batter. Check the seasoning.
- Now heat oil in a deep frying pan. Check if oil is at the right temperature by dropping a small ball of the lentil batter into it. If the oil sizzles and the lentil paste ball floats to the top, the oil is ready!
- Now scoop tablespoons of the batter and drop gently into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan.
- Fry the fritters until golden brown in colour and are cooked through, on a medium high flame.
- Drain excess oil and remove them onto a paper towel.Serve hot with green chutney or ketchup with your favourite tea!