What is Coriander?
Coriander is probably native to the Middle East and southern Europe, but has also been known in Asia and the Orient for millennia. It is found wild in Egypt and the Sudan, and sometimes in English fields. It is referred to in the Bible in the books of Exodus and Numbers, where the colour of ‘manna’ is compared to coriander. The seed is now produced in Russia, India, South America, North Africa — especially Morocco – and in Holland. It was introduced to Britain by the Romans, who used it in cookery and medicine, and was widely used in English cookery until the Renaissance, when the new exotic spices appeared. Among ancient doctors, coriander was known to Hippocratic, and to Pliny who called it coriandrum for its ‘buggy’ smell, coris being a bug; or perhaps because the young seed resembles Cimex lectularius, the European bed-bug. Coriander is the seed of a small plant. The seeds are almost spherical, one end being slightly pointed, the other slightly flattened. There are many longitudinal ridges. The length of the seed is 3 – 5 mm (1/8” – 3/16”) and the colour, when dried, is usually brown, but may be green or off white. The seed is generally sold dried and in this state is apt to split into halves to reveal two partially hollow hemispheres and occasionally some internal powdery matter. Coriander is available both whole and ground. The fresh leaves of the plant are called cilantro and are used as an herb.
Bouquet: Seeds are sweet and aromatic when ripe. Unripe seeds are said to have an offensive smell. The leaves have a distinctive fragrance.
Flavour: The seeds are warm, mild and sweetish. There is a citrus undertone similar to orange peel. The leaves combine well with many pungent dishes from India, Mexico and the Middle East.
Hotness Scale: 1
Preparation and Storage
Coriander seed is generally used coarsely ground or more finely powdered, depending on the texture desired. It is best bought whole as, being brittle, it is easy to mill or pound in a mortar. Ground coriander is apt to lose its flavour and aroma quickly and should be stored in an opaque airtight container. Whole seeds keep indefinitely. Their flavour may be enhanced by a light roasting before use. As coriander is mild, it is a spice to be used by the handful, rather than the pinch. The leaves can be chopped or minced before use. They lose flavour when dried, but may be frozen either blanched or chopped and frozen into ice cubes.
Chinese Parsley, Cilantro, Dizzycorn, Japanese Parsley
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) Indonesian: ketumbar
Lao: phak hom pom
Malay: daun ketumba(r) (leaves), ketumba(r) (seed)
Sinhalese: kottamalli (seed), kottamalli kolle (leaves)
Thai: pak chee (met)