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May 1, 2009 03:16 AM

So, who started the trend for cilantro?

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. 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

        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

          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

            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

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

        10 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          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

            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

              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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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

                  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

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

              2. 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. 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

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

                    1. re: bolivar13

                      yeah, I've been reading the stories on

                      Thanks for the link