Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid | Hot Sour Salty Sweet | Artisan, 2000 | Makes 2 to 3 tablespoons
Here, the essential flavors of the Thai repertoire all come together: black pepper (prik thai), fresh coriander (cilantro) roots, and garlic, salted with a little Thai fish sauce. Use this paste as a marinade for fish, grilled chicken, or pork. Because the paste is so versatile, it’s handy to have a stash of cilantro roots in the freezer. Whenever you buy a bunch of cilantro, after you have used the leaves, chop off the roots and wash and store them in a plastic bag in the freezer. You don’t need to defrost them before using, as they can be chopped and pounded still frozen.
This recipe makes a small quantity of flavor paste, just over 2 tablespoons. Double the quantities if you’d like to make more.—Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
LC Note: Supermarket cilantro tends to have the roots already lopped off. Look instead for cilantro at your local farmers’ market, where you can find the dirt-encrusted, gangly roots still intact. Be sure to give them a good soak before pounding them. We also tend to toss in a few cilantro stems along with the roots when we make this paste—just for good measure. The stems can also stand in for the roots if you can’t lay your hands on the roots. If you’re fortunate enough to have a molcajete in your possession, this is a lovely excuse to put it to use.
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
5 to 6 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro roots (or stems)
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
1. Place the peppercorns in a mortar with the garlic and pound to a paste.
2. Add the cilantro roots and salt and pound to a paste. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. If you have a small blender or other food grinder that can produce a smooth paste, use it instead.
3. Stir in the fish sauce.
4. Use immediately or store in a well-sealed glass jar. This keeps for up to 4 days in the refrigerator
Recipe © 2000 Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Photo © 2000 Richard Jung. All rights reserved.