Cilantro, also known as ‘Chinese parsley’, is a term used to refer to the coriander leaf. This green colored aromatic herb is used as a flavoring ingredient for various dishes. Usually, cilantro recipes are savory in nature. Cilantro leaves vary in shape from plant to plant and has citrus flavor that is quite distinctive from the seeds of the plant. Cilantro is not similar to the ‘culantro’ that is also closely related to coriander plant but relatively different from cilantro. The list of cilantro dishes includes coriander chutney, salsa and various curries.
History of Cilantro
It is believed that coriander plant was first grown in Babylonian hanging gardens. Historians had also found some desiccated mericarps in Israel as one of the oldest evidences of the cultivation of cilantro. During 2nd millennium BC, cilantro was grown in Greece. Some of the earlier archeological evidences also confirmed that cilantro has been grown in Early Bronze Age in Macedonia. The British colonies of North America were introduced by the cultivation of cilantro in 1670. One of the most ancient cilantro recipes is the part of ‘Passover’ meal in the form of bitter herbs.
Culinary Use of Cilantro
In the culinary world cilantro is used as a herb or garnishing ingredient. The aroma and the strong smell of the leaves make it a favorable ingredient in several cilantro recipes. Mostly, it is used in making chutneys and sauces. Mexican salsa is the best example for cilantro dishes. Chopped cilantro is usually added to the cooked dishes as a garnish. Even dal recipes are also garnished with flavorful leaves of cilantro. Green color and flavor of cilantro is best suited to make green curries. Various soups and stews are flavored with cilantro. Cilantro recipes incorporate the herb in raw and fresh form. It is recommended to add the cilantro at the end of the cooking to give the final touch to the dish. This allows the herb to retain its flavor for long as heating may destroy its aroma as well as nutritive value. Dried form of cilantro is highly popular in certain types of cooking.
Popular Cilantro Recipes
• Guacamole – This is one of the most popular Mexican cilantro recipes. This dish can also be made with other variations but cilantro is always the main flavoring agent.
• Coriander chutney – This flavorful chutney is the best condiment served in Asian cuisine. It is little spicy and offers a nice taste to finger foods and snacks.
• Peanut cilantro dip – It is a Thai dip that can be served with fresh vegetables like asparagus and jicama. Even French bread can also be tried with this dip.
• Orange cilantro rice - This rice dish is flavored with fresh orange juice and chopped fresh cilantro. This is one of the most commonly served cilantro dishes in several cuisines.
• Carrot Chile and cilantro soup – Cilantro recipes in Mexican cuisine include this highly appetizing soup. It has a strong flavor of cilantro that makes it well-liked.
Cuisines Commonly Making Cilantro Dishes
Highest use of cilantro is seen in Asian cuisine and Southeast Asian cuisine. Green curry paste is one of the most common cilantro recipes prepared in Thai cuisine. Cilantro is regarded as a highly admired garnish in Southeast Asian savory dishes such as rice, soups and curry dishes. Indian dals also makes good use of cilantro as a flavoring agent. The Indian name for cilantro is ‘hara dhaniya’ that is commonly used to make ‘dhaniye is chutney’.
Cilantro is the American-Spanish name for coriander leaves and it has varied uses in Spanish and Mexican cuisines. Cilantro is the main flavoring agent in salsa and guacamole in Mexican cuisine. Other Mexican cilantro dishes include soups and rice dishes.
In Russian cuisine as well, fresh cilantro is widely used in salads. Latin and Middle Eastern cooking also make good use of cilantro.
Preferred Methods of Making Cilantro Recipes
Cilantro recipes mostly incorporate cilantro in fresh form in order to retain its flavor. Here are some of the methods of making cilantro dishes:
• Chopped – This is one of the most preferred methods used to make cilantro recipes. Chopped cilantro is used as a garnish.
• Blended – Cilantro leaves along with other spices and ingredients are blended in food processor to make smooth chutney or green paste.
• Mixed – In salads, cilantro is mixed in raw form as a flavoring ingredient.
Nutritive Value of Cilantro
Cilantro is a bunch of healthy nutrients. It is not only used as flavoring ingredient but also provides various health benefits. Almost all cilantro recipes include fresh and raw cilantro and this is the most refreshing and healthy form of fragrant herb. Some of the greatest health benefits of cilantro are as follows:
• Cilantro is highly beneficial for digestive system as it acts as a stimulant and health tonic for the betterment of stomach.
• Cilantro is a very effective antibacterial that prevents many food related diseases.
• The anti-flammatory properties of cilantro help in preventing arthritis.
• Even in maintaining the level of good cholesterol, cilantro dishes helps a lot.
• Urinary tract infections and excessive flow in menstruation are some of the problems that can be treated with the regular consumption of cilantro recipes.
Buying and Storing of Cilantro
While buying cilantro, keep the following points in mind:
• Always look for green, fresh and crisp leaves.
• If leaves are sprinkled with water then shake the cilantro bunch to remove excess water before buying.
• Never buy cilantro with broken and stale stems.
• Never wash cilantro till the time it is not used.
• Store cilantro leaves in a paper wrap or preferably silver foil to prevent it from getting stale.
• Cilantro can also be stored in the form of ice cubes. Chop the leaves and put them in an ice tray and freeze with water. Use the cubes to make cilantro recipes as and when required.