Once in a while you find cilantro (aka coriander) complete with roots. Until I was given (thanks!) Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet , a truly fabulous cookbook by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (for another book reviewed on this blog, click here),I had noideathey were edible -- and certainly had no idea what to do with them. Turns out they are a key ingredient in some Thai food. The roots are white and sometimes quite stringy -- but on occasion big and lush and -- it turns out --quite tasty. Here, adapted a bit from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, is a recipe for a great marinade made from the roots. Here's what to do when you see cilantro/coriander with roots:
(1) Buy it immediately. once you have used the leaves (and stems) for other purposes (e.g., added as a garnish to a lovely spicey coconut fish curry), snip the roots off and stick them in a baggy in the freezer.
(2) When you have what will turn out to be at the very least three tablespoons when chopped -- and when you feel like it -- take them out and create a paste with the roots, using the following ingredients:
3 Tbsp roots
2 tsp black pepper corns
5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp Thai fish sauce
To make the paste, stick this stuff in a (very) small food processor or spice grinder and process until a very smushed up. (It will not be smooth but the aim is to ensure the pepper is crushed and the garlic is integrated into the overall theme. What you end up with should be sort of smearable)
(3) Use the paste to make one of two dishes (only one of which I have made: (a) chicken thighs which can be grilled or baked (marinate it for a minimum of one hour at room temperature in the paste --adding 2-3 Tbsp of fish sauce). When grilled these get very charred. I usually bake the thighs at 400 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes and serve with a vinegary- garlic red pepper sauce made by boiiling for five minutes 1/2 cup of rice vinegar and 1/2 cup of sugar -- and then removing from the heat and adding several very finely chopped garlic cloves, a little bit of salt and more than a little bit of crushed red pepper seeds; or (b) a whole fish, made by smearing it with the paste and inserting lemon grass in its interior and baking for a while.
Anyway, the coriander roots are surprisingly tasty. Not just waste -- the roots are as food-worthy as the leaves. Who knew? Now you do!
For more on coriander/cilantro, click here.