Peppercorn-Cilantro Root Paste

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.

A mortar filled with ingredients for a Thai peppercorn-cilantro root paste--garlic, black peppercorns, cilantro stems

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 Rossi

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. 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 Flavor Paste

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 25 M
  • 15 M
  • Makes 2 to 3 tablespoons


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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.

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