If you visit the northwestern region of Việt Nam in spring, you can easily find the beautiful white blossoms of hoa ban, or bauhinia.
Not only are they pleasing to the eyes, but the flowers are actually edible.
The most popular cooking method is to steam the flowers and dip them into a mixture of ground white salt, jungle pepper, cilantro, garlic and chili.
The bauhinia soup is one of the main elements in the daily meals of ethnic Thái people in the northern region.
The flowers are quickly stir fried before being added into the broth.
Tourists can savor dishes with bauhinia in restaurants and hotels in the northwestern provinces of Điện Biên and Sơn La.
If you have a chance to visit the Thái tribe and are lucky enough, you may be invited to eat these tasty delicacies cooked by locals.
Less rare than bauhinias, banana flowers have been used in cooking for a long time all over the country.
The flowers are often found in salad with chicken, beef jerky and seafood.
Banana blossom strips are among the herbs served with the delicious bún bò Huế, or Huế-style beef noodle soup.
The flowers can also be stir fried and served as a vegetarian dish.
Rich in vitamin E and flavonoids, banana flowers are also said to possess immense medicinal value.
In the Vietnamese countryside, it is easy to spot green vines of thiên lý flowers climbing up bamboo poles.
Thiên lý vines do not only provide shade on hot summer days and produce aromatic fragrances during the night, but they are also great ingredients for delicious meals.
Possessing a sweet taste, thiên lý flowers are often cooked in soup with pork, bones or minced field crab.
The flowers are stir fried with beef, steamed with pork leg or mixed with clams and prawns in salads.
Also of the vine family, the male pumpkin flowers, which do not produce fruit, are cut together with their long stems, tied into bundles and put on sales at markets.
Usually grown in great numbers during summer, pumpkin flowers are used in cooking several rustic dishes in Việt Nam.
In the north, flowers are steamed, giving a sweet taste to the flower and crunchiness to the stems.
The summer soups also include pumpkin flowers and minced meat seasoned with sour flavors.
In the south, pumpkin flowers are boiled and served with sauce from braised fish or pork.
The flowers are found in stir fried dishes with garlic, beef or clams.
The trick is to cook the flowers to a point in which they do not become too soft from overcooking.
One specialty is bong bi don thit, or pumpkin flowers stuffed with minced pork, prawn and squid.
The flowers need to be picked within a few days of blossoming, have their stems stripped, washed and dried.
The flowers are fried so as they retain the yellowish colors while their stuffing is cooked.
There are still other kinds of flowers in Việt Nam that are edible and rich in nutrition like artichoke flowers, hoa kim châm (daylily), and bông điên điển (sesbania sesban).
Which flowers have you tried?
By PHƯƠNG THỦY