The Spice Road: Coriander
Certain foods inspire strong reactions in people. For example, many people either love or hate cilantro. Its prevalence in salsas and Mexican sauces make it easily recognizable to most diners. On the other hand, coriander is more of a stealth ingredient, finding its way into many foods without inspiring such a strong reaction. What many people don’t realize is that those cilantro leaves and stems come from the same plant as the spice known as coriander.
Coriander is the fruit or seed of the cilantro plant (also known as Chinese parsley). The seed is ground up and used as a base in curry pastes or “gravies.” It serves as a base ingredient in Mediterranean, Chinese, and Indonesian cooking. It sports a pungent fragrance and provides a deep, rich flavor to food. Cilantro, on the other hand, lighter but stronger, imparts a “lift” to any food it seasons. Recipes usually add cilantro at the end of a dish while coriander is added at the beginning. Oftentimes coriander is toasted and ground, and then mixed in with ginger and turmeric. Diners can easily see and recognize cilantro in a dish, which can trigger an immediate reaction, either positive or negative. Since coriander is one of the invisible spices, most people don’t even know they are eating it.