Cilantro, also known as Pak Chee in Thailand is an edible herb. And in most western countries it’s called Coriander. It is also sometimes known as Chinese Parsley.
This particular herb was originally a native of southern Europe and derived its name from the Greek word Koris, which in turn has some reference to the word “Bug“. Apparently, this was because the plant typified a smell similar to that of “old bed bugs”.
Does anyone know what old bed bugs smell like? Well, one thing is for sure, this particular herb doesn’t taste anything like bed bugs!!! Old or new and thank goodness for that. But while on the subject of bugs – if you’re looking to sample some tasty bugs while on holiday here, you have to look no further than on the streets of Bangkok and or Pattaya.
While fresh cilantro has a rather pungent flavour, it’s considered by many to be fragrant and tangy, if not a little peppery in taste.
The Health Benefits of Cilantro
The health benefits derived from this wonderful plant are insurmountable.
1) It helps protect against certain viral and bacterial infections
2) It is beneficial in helping control blood sugar levels
3) It helps fight inflammation and free radicals.
4) It lowers bad cholesterol level (LDL) and raises good cholesterol (HDL)
5) It helps aid in digestion and settles the stomach
6) It helps protect against urinary tract infection
7) It relieves intestinal gas and prevents flatulence
8) It helps in preventing nausea
9) It rids the body of heavy metals such as mercury, lead and aluminium
Dietary Source of Cilantro
The dietary source derived from the herb is excellent for your well-being.
1) It’s a great source of fibre
2) It’s a great source of iron
3) It’s a great source of magnesium
4) It’s Rich in phytonutrients and flavonoids
What are phytonutrients and flavonoids!
They are natural nutrients found in foods of plant origin and play a potentially advantageous role in the prevention and treatment of disease thus necessary to sustain human life.
Culinary and Cooking Techniques
Thai people use every single part of the plant, including the stems and roots in their cooking preparation. The leaves are frequently used in noodle dishes, stir-fries and soups, but are often used to garnish many other foodstuffs. The stems and roots will be used for additional flavouring and the seeds will be grounded and used to make curries and various other spicy pastes.
You may not always be able to find cilantro with the roots still attached in most western markets as they are usually removed before reaching their destination. Unless of course, you are able to grow your own or you are able to locate a nearby source, you may have to be content with cooking with just the leaves. Feel free, however, to utilise the very bottom portion of the stems for that extra seasoning. Remember, every little bit counts.
Some Useful Tips
Here are a few things you may wish to memorise when preparing or storing fresh or ground coriander. First and foremost, do not overcook the leaves for too long as they are prone to losing their firmness and may even become a little unappetizing. It is always better to add them to any recipe towards the very end of the cooking session. It is also preferable to retain the beauty of the serrated leaves in their whole form rather than chopping them up too finely. The fresh coriander leaves make a wonderful garnish.
Although fresh cilantro may not keep for more than a day or two at very best, you can put the leaves, stems and roots in a cylindrical bowl or jar of cold water and cover with a lid or plastic bag. That way, the plant will keep fresher for a little longer. If you are able to buy the plant with all its roots still attached, then clean the roots and place them in the freezer.
Although dried coriander seeds keep well, ground coriander loses its aroma and flavour fairly rapidly, so it is best not to store too big a quantity. If you would like to prepare a recipe requiring ground coriander, my suggestion is to either grind your own or purchase a small amount that has been freshly prepared. Try finding a market specialising in spices near where you live. Buy enough for immediate use and only then replenish whenever needed.
If making your own ground coriander, you first need to dry-fry some seeds in a heavy-based skittle tossing them frequently until the seeds give off a rich spicy aroma. Place the seeds into a mortar and, using a pestle, pound the seeds into a smooth powder. Alternatively, you can use either a spice grinder or an electric coffee grinder, specially reserved for blending spices.
You may like to try these Herbs and Spices
Kaffir Lime and Leaves is a sub-species of the citrus family, has a strong fragrance and flavour and is highly prized in Thai cuisine.
Lemongrass is a wonderfully aromatic herb with a distinct lemony flavour but more than that, it also provides a whole host of herbal and therapeutic benefits.