Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. It is also known as cilantro, particularly in the Americas. Coriander is native to southwestern Asia right to the west to North Africa.
The name coriander derives from French coriandre through Latin “coriandrum” and in turn from the Greek “κορίαννον”. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the most commonly used in cooking. Coriander is commonly used in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian, South Asian, Mexican, Latin American, Chinese, African and Southeast Asian cuisine.
Originally grown around present day Greece, coriander has been used as a culinary herb since at least 5,000 B.C. It is mentioned in Sanskrit text and the Bible. Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) used the name Coriandrum after "coris", the Greek word for "bedbug" as it was said they both emitted a similar odour. Coriander is one of the herbs thought to have aphrodisiac qualities; the Chinese used it in love potions and in “The Thousand and One Nights” a man who had been childless for 40 years is cured with a coriander concoction. Spanish conquistadors introduced it to Mexico and Peru where it now commonly paired with chillies in the local cuisine.
The coriander leaves have a very different taste from the seeds, with citrus-like overtones. Some people perceive an unpleasant "soapy" taste or a rank smell and avoid eating the leaves. The fresh leaves are an essential ingredient in many South Asian foods (particularly chutneys), in Chinese dishes and in Mexican salsas and guacamole.
Chopped coriander leaves are also used as a garnish on cooked dishes such as dhal and many curries. As heat diminishes their flavour quickly, coriander leaves are often used raw or added to the dish right before serving. The leaves also spoil quickly when removed from the plant, and lose their aroma when dried or frozen.
The dry fruits are known as coriander seeds. In some regions, the use of the word coriander in food preparation always refers to these seeds (as a spice), rather than to the plant itself. The seeds have a lemony citrus flavour when crushed. It is also described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured. It is commonly found both as whole dried seeds and in ground form. Seeds can be roasted or heated on a dry pan briefly before grinding to enhance and alter the aroma. Like most spices, ground coriander seed loses its flavour quickly in storage and is best when ground as needed. For optimum flavour, whole coriander seed should be stored in a tightly sealed container away from sunlight and heat.
Coriander seed is a key in garam masala and Indian curries, which often employ the ground fruits in generous amounts together with cumin. Roasted coriander seeds, called dhana dal, are also eaten as a snack. It is also the main ingredient of the two south Indian gravies, sambhar and rasam.
Outside of Asia, coriander seed is an important spice for pickling vegetables, and making sausages in Germany and South Africa. In Russia and Central Europe coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye bread as an alternative to caraway. Coriander seeds are also used in brewing certain styles of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers. The coriander seeds are typically used in conjunction with orange peel to add a citrus character to these styles of beer. Having said this, it is not a common spice in Western cuisine.
Coriander roots have a deeper, more intense flavour than the leaves. They are used in a variety of Asian cuisines. They are commonly used in Thai dishes, including soups and curry pastes. In Malaysia, it is usually ground to make curry paste.
Coriander is considered an aid to the digestive system. It is an appetite stimulant and aids in the secretion of gastric juices. The essential oils of the cilantro leaves contain antibacterial properties and can be used as a fungicide. It is rich in vitamin C.
Coriander - Europe, Asia, Australasia
Cilantro - Latin America and United States
Spanish: cilantro, culantro
Burmese: nannambin (leaves), nannamzee (seed)
Chinese: hsiang tsai, yen-sui, yuen sai, yuin si tsoi (leaves)
Indian: dhanyia, dhuniah, kothimbir, kotimear, kotimli (seed)
dhania patta, dhania sabz, hara dhania (leaf)
Lao: phak hom pom
Malay: daun ketumba(r) (leaves), ketumba(r) (seed)
Sinhalese: kottamalli (seed), kottamalli kolle (leaves)
Thai: pak chee (met)
Source: Wikipedia and The Epicentre