1. Butterfly pea
Commonly known as the butterfly pea or blue pea, this crawling vine native to Southeast Asia produces deep blue blooms that are prized as a natural food colouring.
Owing to their mildly vegetal flavour, these flowers make the perfect food dye, lending a vivid hue to everything from rice to desserts, without overpowering other ingredients.
Called bunga telang in Malaysia and Singapore, the flowers feature in Malay and Peranakan Chinese cuisine. Their signature blue tint brings vibrance to nasi kerabu and the sticky rice treat pulut tai tai.
In Thailand, the liquid from steeping dried butterfly pea flowers in hot water is used to make nam dok anchan, a refreshing drink zhooshed up with lemongrass and lime.
The citric acid from lime or lemon juice turns the extract a magical purply-pink – a nifty trick you can use when serving butterfly pea flower tea.
A shrub in the hibiscus family, the roselle’s most distinguishing features are its crimson bud and calyces, which are dried and brewed to make a tea.
Called chin baung ywet or sour leaf in Myanmar, roselle leaves are a popular addition to stir-fries and also feature in hinjo, a vegetable-filled clear broth usually eaten with meals.
Malaysians, on the other hand, enjoy antioxidant-rich juice made from dried roselle flowers that can be enjoyed warm or cold, as well as roselle jam, a sticky, tart spread produced by cooking roselle petals.
3. Banana blossom
Purple-skinned and tear-shaped, the flower of the banana plant or banana blossom can grow up to 30 centimetres in length and is found at the end of a fruit bunch.
The outer leaves or bracts of the flower, which can be used as serving boats, are peeled away layer by layer to get to the heart – the pale inner bracts of the blossom.
The tender inner bracts are blanched, sliced and thrown into salads like Thailand’s yam hua plee – a scrumptious appetiser featuring juicy shrimp, shallots, toasted grated coconut, coriander and bird’s eye chillies – and Malaysia’s kerabu jantung pisang.
In Indonesia, a favourite is gulai jantung pisang or banana blossom cooked in coconut milk with galangal, shallots and chillies.
Owing to its chunky and flaky texture, banana blossom makes a great meat substitute.
A species of aquatic plant that can be found in swamps and rice paddies, the humble genjer was once considered a poor man’s food, as it was eaten by struggling peasants during the Japanese occupation of Java in World War II.
Also referred to as sawah lettuce, genjer is known for the bitter tang of its leaves, which are used in stir-fries and soups, but the buds of the plant are edible too.
Unlike the leaves, genjer buds have a crunch much like bean sprouts when cooked, and make a lovely addition to stir-fries.
Tossed with garlic, shallots, tomatoes and chillies, tumis bunga genjer is a simple but delicious way to enjoy the buds, while tumis genjer oncom features the leaves and buds with tempeh-like oncom.
5. Vegetable hummingbird
The vegetable hummingbird is a fast-growing tree that has white, red or pink flowers and fruits that resemble long, thin beans.
Also known as katurai in Tamil, this nutrient-dense plant is believed to have medicinal properties that can ease ailments like the common cold.
In Khmer cuisine, the flowers known as angkea dei are typically cooked in soup, while in Thailand, gaeng som dok khae, a spicy-sour southern Thai curry features the blooms, drumstick pods and green papaya.
The half-moon-shaped flowers have a slight crunch and have a flavour like sugar snap peas.
According to airasia.com