The fountain of youth is folklore for some, and Giloy vine (Tiliacora triandra, grass jelly vine, bai yanang, bai ya nang) for others. Yanang is a tropical perennial vine, native to Southeast Asia. It’s especially popular for culinary and medicinal use in Northeast Thailand and Laos. This is a relatively unassuming climbing plant with deep green leaves, yellow flowers, and red spherical fruit. But it’s the leaves of Yanang that are cherished for its thickening properties, cooling effects, and supposed health benefits. With high contents of Vitamin A, B-carotene, Phosphorus, Polyphenols, Flavonoids, alkaloids, and minerals, Yanang is said to be overall beneficial to one’s wellbeing. Yanang makes a mean, green, plant-based Jell-O, too!
Plant care requires one to mimic the humid, sunny, and acidic soil conditions of its native habitats in Southeast Asia. However, the hardy yanang plant will adapt to any well-drained, sunny, and well-watered growing conditions. Once mature, harvest leaves as often as needed for extracting yanang juice. The process of extracting the gelatinous properties of yanang requires bruising and mashing leaf clippings with a mortar and pestle or cleaver. Other sources suggest simply putting leaf clippings into a food processor with 2 cups of cold water to extract the juice, and straining the remnants. In Thailand and Laos, packaged yanang juice or water can be purchased in food markets, where it is a sought-out thickener ingredient for bamboo shoot soup.
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