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Why coriander root is so important

I see that the coriander enemies are out in force today as it's "I hate coriander day" but coriander root is the heart and soul of Thai cooking...

1y ago

I love ancient Thai food and I am a big fan of coriander root which I believe is the heart and soul of Thai cooking.

In fact I used to campaign to get the supermarkets to stock it outside of London and let me tell you why....

Coriander root is the foundation upon which many dishes are built. It not only adds taste, texture and depth but it enables the user to create the foundation pastes that give Thai food its unique flavour.

Sadly this unique flavour is very quickly being lost. Both in the UK and in Thailand the use of pre-made pastes is becoming widespread. Although there are some good pre-made curry pastes out there curry is only scratching the surface of the role of coriander root.

Coriander root is as fundamental to Thai food as the onion is to British food.

Just imagine the limits to your cooking without this British staple!

Chilling those roots in the heat of Bangkok....

Chilling those roots in the heat of Bangkok....

Without coriander root many dishes are severely compromised and the understanding of the use of the food culture is lost.

One of the things that really worries me is that without the root Thai people who come to live in the UK are not able to pass on their original recipes and their heritage to their children. Once this link is broken, the knowledge of this delicious cuisine will be lost forever.

There are many dishes based around what I call “magic paste”. That is coriander root pounded in a pestle and mortar with some coarse salt, whole white peppercorns and garlic. These four essentials are the foundation of many a magical dish.

The range of Thai food you can cook without it is severely restricted. Many people will say that if you cannot get it you can use the leaves as a substitute but in my experience you cannot do this successfully.

Thai root is so strongly flavoured and importantly, very dry. Therefore when you make a paste it holds its structure well and you can achieve a balance of coriander flavour with the garlic without making the paste sloppy.

If you use leaves as a substitute the curry paste becomes too wet and you can never get the weak flavouring to balance with the garlic.

If you seriously want to experience the full flavour of these dishes you need to get your hands on proper Thai root – it’s nectar of the gods!

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