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Oct 18, 2013 04:11 PM

culantro vs shado beni

Need some help here!

I am running into both in my quest to recreate my late aunt's West Indian pepper sauce. It is mustard colored, with scotch bonnets and vinegar, and not a lot else.

My mom's family is from Nevis, but from the foods I've researched, seems to have a lot of Trini and Bajan influences. (Shout out to Duppie; Thanks for your help! )

I grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, but am now in Nor Cal, with a lot of Mexican and Asian influences.

I was disappointed to find a jar from Goya labeled "Racaito-Cilantro cooking base", with a picture of a culantro leaf on it, contained no culantro! But the Asian market had something labeled "rau gai culantro" and I think "Viet" or "Thai" cilantro, that looked like culantro. In looking it up, I was referred back to shado beni.

"An herb known by more than 73 names…Eryngium Foetidum"

"One sauce made from Shadow Bennie is traditionally served over Shark and Bake and is a mixture of White Wine Vinegar, Garlic, Vegetable Oil, Habanero Peppers, and of course the Shadow Bennie."

Need some help here! Is culantro shado(w) beni and rau gai?

I was recently disappointed to find that the "Plectranthus amboinicus",... "herb of a hundred names" my local nursery grew, may not be the same as the broad leaf thyme my MIL uses.

Oh, and the pepper sauce is a little too green, but smells just right!

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  1. Ngo gai is Eryngium foetidum. Haven't heard the term shado beni but all sources I've found says it is also Eryngium foetidum. Culantro is also Eryngium foetidum.

    I'm Vietnamese and call it ngo gai. My latino friends call it culantro.

    1 Reply
    1. re: seamunky

      This is the usual label in the Seattle area.

    2. Culantro and Shado Beni are the same thing.

      Plectranthus amboinicus is broadleaf thyme/Cuban oregano, oregano brujo/Mexican mint (which tagetes lucida is also called)/etc. The picture shown in that link is a really bad picture. It looks like the same plant based on the shape but it doesn't really look like that. The leaves are not shiny at all.

      I don't know if what your nursery is selling is actually what it's labeled as though. My local nursery sells a plant it calls "Cuban oregano" that is just some species of regular oregano (Origanum vulgare) or some other very closely related species. It's most definitely NOT plectranthus amboinicus.

      Plectranthus amboinicus are succulents with very thicky, fuzzy leaves, and are extremely aromatic and nice smelling. There are many different types, I grow two of them.

      A variegated one that looks like this:

      This one smells practically like pure oregano, only a little cleaner and brighter.

      And one that looks like this:

      This one has a very different smell that's hard to describe. It is somewhat perfume-y and has somewhat of a mint-like smell. It doesn't really smell very much like oregano, but it also smells amazing.

      There is another one that is variegated but in the opposite way as the first one, with the margin of the leaves being lighter than the inside.

      Companion Plants calls it Portuguese oregano.

      And there is also another one that looks just like the first one but not variegated.

      8 Replies
      1. re: StringerBell

        Thank you all! My cuban oregano , which is from Morningsun herb farm, has a smaller leaf, and is a bit too perfumey. StringerBell, it is exactly like your mexican mint link. I like MIL's better, and it looks more like your last link.

        These are the two Cuban oregano plants. I hope. They are on google plus, and I'm not sure how to share them here.

        1. re: StringerBell

          The one we have looks like your last link.

          My wife calls it podena.

          By the is the easiest growing plant EVER. Just break off a piece and stick it in a pot. That's lives to grows to live.

          1. re: JayL

            Yeah, these plants are a pleasure to grow. They don't like waterlogged soil/potting mix but even then the leaves just start cupping and looking a little sad, they still grow well. They can handle 100 degree temperatures and full sun just fine, and they do great indoors over the winter in front of a window sill. They're pretty much foolproof. The medium can be practically bone dry and they don't wilt. When I want to make a new plant I just rip out a chunk, roots and all, and pot it.

            They're really nice looking plants and their aroma is incredible too. I have to rub my fingers on the leaves and smell them almost every time I walk by. There are a lot of herbs that are more useful in the kitchen but these are my favorite all around plants. Even if they had no culinary value I would still grow them.

              1. re: Shrinkrap

                Yeah I use both of them. They're really good for chimichurri, herb pastes, herb butters, marinades, rubs, soups, etc.

                The variegated one tastes very similar to regular oregano so I use it fairly often in place of regular oregano. The flavor doesn't hold up as well to long cooking as regular oregano though, so I'll usually add it more towards the end. One of my favorite uses is chopped and added to Cuban-style black beans near the end of cooking. Some people bread the leaves and deep fry them like others do with basil.

                The other one (that looks like this: ) doesn't really taste like oregano, so it's a little harder to find uses for. It seems when people say "Mexican mint" this is the one they're talking about, not so much the other ones. Even though they're the same species this one is a lot different in shape and aroma than the others.

                With its slight mint-like taste I think it's good in fruit smoothies and also works really well in Middle Eastern-style yogurt marinades. The leaves are really plump and full of water. If you squeeze a leaf between your fingers water runs out all over your fingers. It's also good in herb blends with a lot of other herbs.

                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                    That's a nice herb too! Did you get it?

                    I ordered my culantro from (same place I got one of my Cuban oregano plants from, I highly recommend them).

                    I tried to start some from seed from Baker's Creek before. People say it's hard to start from seed but they say that about a lot of things, like holy basil, that really aren't hard at all. Germination was 0 for ~50 in a mini greenhouse with very fine seed-starting mix, that was misted regularly and kept at ~80-85 degrees using a heat pad and thermostat. Maybe I just got some bad seeds, supposedly they lose viability pretty quickly. Once you get a plant it's pretty easy to keep propagating them from cuttings though.

                    1. re: Shrinkrap

                      They used to sell culantro plants at our local Publix. They were in the produce section with the other live, potted herbs. Our Publix switched suppliers for their herb plants a couple of years ago and stopped carrying culantro. It may be worth checking out if you have a Publix close by.

          2. My Indo-Caribbean wife says bandania and culantro. Some say shadow beni and it is usually spelled shandon beni.

            All different names for the same thing...the big brother of cilantro.