Coriander: The unsung hero of Indian cuisine

“Today, we fancifully talk about ‘root-to-fruit’ consumption patterns to reduce waste,” said Brar, “But coriander has always been that guy.” The longer the anticipated cooking time, “the lower you go,” meaning “lower” in the anatomy of the plant, from the leaf to the stalk, root and seed.

Coriander roots, for instance, impart a deep, woody flavour in the city of Lucknow’s celebrated nihari, a sumptuous, slow-cooked meat stew. A muslin-wrapped pouch with coriander seeds – along with other spices such as cloves, cinnamon sticks, cumin seeds and peppercorns – are often simmered for hours on end to extract a full-bodied and deep broth, often used to make pulao, a dish similar to rice pilaf. The delicate, fresh leaves can be added at the end of preparing a dish.

“Like perfumery, coriander has top, mid and deep notes. The leaves are like cologne – you dab some on top; it stays for a bit [then dissipates]. But the roots are [long-lasting] musk – oud,” he continued. 

Cookbook author Saira Hamilton particularly likes cooking with the bottom parts of the plant. “The roots and stalks are probably the best part,” she said. “Often scorned by Western chefs, the stalks of coriander, if bitten into raw, have a juicy pop of flavour which I adore. Pounded down with green chilli and salt, [coriander roots] are like a taste explosion for any masala [spice blend].”

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