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Peppercorn-Cilantro Flavor Paste

A mortar filled with ingredients for a Thai peppercorn-cilantro root paste--garlic, black peppercorns, cilantro stems
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.
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Prep 15 mins
Total 15 mins
2 to 3 tablespoons
23 kcal


  • 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.