This peppercorn-cilantro root paste from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid may sound exotic but it’s a classic Thai trick for imparting a lot of oomph without a lot of ingredients or expense.
This peppercorn-cilantro root flavor paste melds Thai flavors including cilantro roots and fish sauce for a remarkably simple yet sophisticated flavor enhance for chicken, fish, or pork before grilling or roasting. The authors note that this recipe makes a small quantity of flavor paste, just over 2 tablespoons, so you may wish to double the amount.–Renee Schettler
Peppercorn-Cilantro Root Paste FAQs
What are cilantro roots?
After glancing at the ingredient list, you may be wondering, where the heck do I buy cilantro roots?! Supermarket cilantro tends to have the roots already lopped off although the cilantro at your local farmers’ market or Asian market can often be found with the dirt-encrusted, gangly roots still intact. And, of course, you’ll find the roots attached to whatever cilantro you pull from the garden or windowsill container. Be sure to give the grungy roots a good soak before pounding them.
How do I store cilantro roots?
Because this paste is so versatile, it’s handy to have a stash of cilantro roots in the freezer. Simply chop 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. And if you just can’t lay your hands on the roots, cilantro stems (minus the leaves) can easily stand in for the roots.
Peppercorn-Cilantro Root Paste
- 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 fish sauce
- Place the peppercorns in a mortar with the garlic and pound to a paste.
- 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, you can use it instead. (We tend to toss in a few cilantro stems along with the roots when we make this paste—just for good measure.)
- Stir in the fish sauce.
- Use the paste immediately or store in a well-sealed glass jar. This keeps for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Originally published April 09, 2000
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Sound wonderful. Can you please provide instructions on how to use this paste?
Happily, Shirley! I use it sorta like a combination marinade and spice rub by slathering it under and over the skin on chicken (preferably thighs) before grilling (although I suspect it would work with roasting as well). I also use it in the same way on shrimp and I suspect it would also be lovely on pork tenderloin that you’ve sliced into thin strips (cutting with and not against the grain) and then you can grill or broil them. I’ve also stirred a little of the paste into an ad-hoc soup made with canned full-fat coconut milk thinned with some chicken or shrimp stock to which I’ve added cooked chicken or seafood and then finished it with stuff like cilantro and scallions. I hope this helps…!
Great suggestions. I overheard at a dinner party about using cilantro roots. Your article gave me real ideas. Like that they can be frozen too. Thank you.
You’re so very welcome, Nathalie. When I first thought to freeze cilantro roots, it was life changing! So glad the tip has helped you, too. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know!