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So, who started the trend for cilantro?

Soop May 1, 2009 03:16 AM

I see a common agreement among cilantro-haters that it seemed to proliferate rapidly across america some time in the 80's. What caused the sudden spread of this evil soapweed? Was it some celebrity chef's endorsement?

And as an aside, here's a poll - do you love or hate coriander/cilantro?

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  1. babette feasts RE: Soop May 1, 2009 06:28 AM


    1. tatamagouche RE: Soop May 1, 2009 06:40 AM

      I guess I'd argue that the greater use of fresh herbs in American cooking happened at the same time that a greater appreciation of cuisine altogether happened (if the two aren't precisely synonymous, they're certainly related)—and that would indeed be around the Julia-post-Julia era, during the rise of nouvelle cuisine. I'm thinking cilantro, along with basil and basically anything beyond curly parsley, arrived on the same bandwagon.


      (Edit: and of course by "American cooking" I here mean that which occurred in restaurants, not that which was practiced in home kitchens in New Orleans and Santa Fe and San Francisco and Ogunquit and etc.)

      4 Replies
      1. re: tatamagouche
        Aromatherapy RE: tatamagouche May 1, 2009 07:58 AM

        Hey, it was happening in my kitchen! I remember when cilantro required a special trip to the wilds of Watertown. But here in the States I don't think you can overlook immigration patterns. Mexicans (especially), Indians, Chinese, SE Asians, etc., boosting demand. And opening restaurants.

        1. re: Aromatherapy
          tatamagouche RE: Aromatherapy May 1, 2009 08:16 AM

          Right. And I think nouvelle chefs, compared to their classical French-oriented forebears, were the ones who were excited about incorporating some of these ingredients they were seeing in "ethnic" markets into their cooking. Especially Asian, to begin with, but eventually Latin (although by that time we're probably talking nouvelle's successors).

          1. re: tatamagouche
            Soop RE: tatamagouche May 1, 2009 08:30 AM

            So when did it become so prevailant in Mexican cuisine? For some reason, I assumed Carne asada had been the same for .. forever.

            1. re: Soop
              MikeG RE: Soop May 1, 2009 09:27 AM

              The use of coriander as an herb presumably came over with the Spaniards, it used to be much more common in Europe, but there's also an indigenous Central American herb with a similar flavor so your "forever" is probably apt.

              But I think your gene-borne distaste for it is exaggerating its ubiquity. I don't think it's trendy by itself, but anywhere you find any "Latin American," much "Asian" and some "Middle Eastern" influence, among others, it's bound to crop up... (no pun intended) Maybe for a brief period there it was showing up in places it really didn't belong but I'd see that more a temporary fad - shared by any number of other ingredients from garlic to foie gras - and it's hard to pin those on a particular person more than general cultural characteristics... "Mexico" may be responsible for making cilantro a household word once "salsa" became ubiquitous but that wasn't until well into the 90s when "Thai/SE Asian influence" was already becoming the latest thing...

      2. Sam Fujisaka RE: Soop May 1, 2009 08:58 AM

        Not just Mexico, but all of Latin America - and south and southeast Asia!

        10 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka
          babette feasts RE: Sam Fujisaka May 1, 2009 06:08 PM

          Sam, I'm in Bangkok now - finished in Bhutan and traveling a bit. Last night I had grilled prawns that came with a sauce that may have been thoroughly asian, but I could have sworn was salsa verde from some awesome little taqueria: lime, cilantro, green chili, so good - and amusing when seemingly different cuisines end up with such similar flavors.

          1. re: babette feasts
            Sam Fujisaka RE: babette feasts May 1, 2009 06:37 PM

            There was many, many a time eating in one of the national research centers in India that I would take a chapatti and fill it with meat or curry, dal, chiles, and tomato and have a perfect taco!!

            1. re: babette feasts
              alanbarnes RE: babette feasts May 3, 2009 10:08 AM

              A while back I was putting together an Indian dinner and one of the recommended accompaniments was Kachumbar. I'd never heard of the stuff, but was game, so I tracked down a Madhur Jaffrey recipe and started putting it together. Tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lemon juice, chile. About midway through it hit me - I was making pico de gallo!!!

            2. re: Sam Fujisaka
              Paula76 RE: Sam Fujisaka May 2, 2009 04:33 AM

              Not all of Latin America! (Thank God!) Cilantro does not exist in Argentinian/Uruguayan/Brazilian cuisine as far as I'm concerned (I am talking traditional food and not the fancy, trendy new 'fusion' places).

              1. re: Paula76
                Sam Fujisaka RE: Paula76 May 2, 2009 08:04 AM

                I've had quite a bit of chimichurri made from cilantro rather than parsley in Salta and Jujuy; and sopa de coentro in Porto Velho in Rondonia - hardly upscale places.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                  Paula76 RE: Sam Fujisaka May 2, 2009 08:32 AM

                  What you had in Salta and Jujuy is definetely a modern twist on chimichurri as the original one always takes parsley and never cilantro. I am not sure about Porto Velho; maybe there are a couple of regioinal dishes in Brazil which include this ingredient but I think it's pretty unusual.

                  1. re: Paula76
                    Sam Fujisaka RE: Paula76 May 2, 2009 08:39 AM

                    I was last in Salta and Jujuy about 30 years ago (when I lived in Bolivia).

                    Overall, my experience is that there is cilantro throughout Latin America, but not as much as in SE Asia. Even foods in Mexico have less cilantro than people in the US seem to think.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                      Paula76 RE: Sam Fujisaka May 2, 2009 06:00 PM

                      I agree. I lived in Mexico for four years and never ever had a problem with cilantro with the exception of tacos al pastor which I don't like anyway with or without it. Their use of it is subtle and it never tends to overpower any dish as opposed to what often happens with versions of Mexican food elsewhere.

                2. re: Paula76
                  paulj RE: Paula76 May 2, 2009 08:29 AM

                  I wonder if the use in Brazil is regional, maybe less likely in the south among more recent European immigrants, more likely in the north.

                  The Wiki article claims that in a corner of Portugal there is a survivor of older European usage of cilantro. But I don't know how reliable that claim is.

                  1. re: paulj
                    Aromatherapy RE: paulj May 3, 2009 05:08 AM

                    It's pretty common in Portugal. Their version of clams in white wine is usually flavored with it.

              2. paulj RE: Soop May 1, 2009 09:12 AM

                According to the Wiki article on Coriander, the plant was well known through out Asia and Europe for a long time. Both seed and leaf were used in European medieval cooking, and even brought to the British colonies. But for some reason, use of the leaf fell out of favor in most of Europe. Since it is a Eurasian plant, it probably was introduced to the Mexican (and other Latin American) cooking with the Spanish. However, there is a native American herb of similar, but stronger, flavor, 'culantro', which spread the other way (especially into SE Asian cooking).

                1. b
                  bolivar13 RE: Soop May 1, 2009 01:45 PM

                  I know this isn't on topic necessarily, but you are aware that this is a genetic inability on your part to actually taste cilantro, right?
                  A guy on NPR did a great story on it and found - much to his chagrin, that he wasn't a supertaster but instead taste-deficient.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bolivar13
                    tatamagouche RE: bolivar13 May 2, 2009 05:53 AM

                    I'm so glad I don't have the cilantro problem. Love the clean, spunky smell and taste!

                    1. re: bolivar13
                      Soop RE: bolivar13 May 3, 2009 01:19 AM

                      yeah, I've been reading the stories on ihatecilantro.com.

                      Thanks for the link

                    2. l
                      lergnom RE: Soop May 1, 2009 08:07 PM

                      Well, I love cilantro and it became common in my tasting in Thai food.

                      1. g
                        gfr1111 RE: Soop May 2, 2009 06:27 AM

                        the appearance in the early 1980s seems about right to me. When I first started eating it, I discovered after a few encounters that it made my stomach queasy. Other people have noted the same thing. But I liked the taste and, so, I persevered. Now, I love the stuff.

                        1. Veggo RE: Soop May 2, 2009 08:15 AM

                          I'll take the blame.

                          1. DanaB RE: Soop May 2, 2009 08:47 AM

                            Re. your poll -- there's only one semi-option for people who like it and like 5 for people who don't. You should have at least one option for people who love it, without characterizing how you might think people who like it thinks it tastes. Just a comment :-)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: DanaB
                              Soop RE: DanaB May 3, 2009 01:21 AM

                              oops, I suppose you're right. I guess it is a little biased to how people hate it.
                              There should be an "add your own option" at the end I think

                            2. e
                              embee RE: Soop May 2, 2009 03:51 PM

                              I first tasted cilantro at Expo 67 in Montreal. The food was Indo/Pakistani and was definitely "adapted for Western tastes", but they used lots of cilantro. The resto reviewer at the Montreal Star, Helen Rochester, went gaga over it (and also over French shallots). It became widely available sometime in the seventies, but probably wasn't sold in every supermarket until the eighties.

                              1. p
                                PaperMoon RE: Soop May 3, 2009 09:34 AM

                                Wow. I've always been amazed that people don't like cilantro which I love. It's almost impossible for there to be too much of it in my pho, bun bo hue, guacamole, tacos, stiry-fry's, etc. And I adore Thai green curries because cilantro plays such a strong role in the mix.

                                I personally despise parsley which occasionally tastes like dirty stagnant soap water which I've always found interesting because it's pretty similar to how cilantro-haters describe the taste of cilantro. But I've never met anyone else who shares my opinion on parsley.

                                1. m
                                  MattInNJ RE: Soop May 4, 2009 07:41 AM

                                  Far more worse than the supposed evils of this plant is the incessant whining of people who jump on the cilantro sucks bandwagon because its the new thing to do on the webs.

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