Roots of Coriander & Spinach, by Kai Chan

Coriander ( Cilantro in Spanish) is a herb commonly used in Chinese and South Asian kitchens. The seeds are an aromatic spice that has a distinctive fragrance and taste; very often used in pickling and curry dishes. From the plant part, most people only use the leaves as a herb. However, the rest of the plant is good to eat as well. The petioles are like mini celery, and would add favour to salads or any other dishes. The roots are rarely used, except in Thai cuisine. I like the favour of coriander roots very much. It is sweet and has a nice fragrance. It is an excellent addition to any dish. In the supermarkets the roots are usually chopped off. I grab them every time I see coriander with roots attached.  For future use, I cut off the roots, wash and dry them, then are put into the freezer in a plastic box.

    The spinach crown is the lower part of the spinach plant, with the red root. In “Zen Vegetarian Cooking”, Soli Yoneda and Koli Hoshini,( two Japanese Abbess, at Sanko-In Temple ),  described the favour and the nutrients of spinach crowns.  Their recipe to stir-fry spinach crowns with ginger,  as well as to braise the crowns with sake is simple but delicious.  A friend of mine described the spinach root’s favour as sweet with a slight taste of the soil, which is exactly why I like it.

    Spinach is most often used in salads, quiche, soups and other combinations. However, I like a simple spinach stir-fry which preserves the true taste of this vegetable. Unless one grows one’s own spinach, it is difficult to find the roots still attached to the spinach offered in supermarkets. However, sometimes they do appear. Spinach requires three or four rinsings to get rid of the sand and mud. While washing, I usually cut the upper part of the plant with scissors, then split the crown into three or four parts which makes it easier to get rid of the dirt. To cook them, I put some vegetable oil in a hot pot on the stove, with some chopped garlic and a bit of salt and put the washed and cut-up spinach crowns and leaves into the pot, put the lid on and cook for about two minutes; the water retained from the washing will steam and cook the vegetable. Then I flip the spinach over in the pot, cover it up again for another two minutes or so. To finish the cooking I stir the vegetable thoroughly and the dish is ready.  With the dark green leaves,  jade like petioles and the red roots, it is very satisfying for both the eyes and the taste buds.


The Raw and the Cooked, MYTHOLOGIQUES is a new column on the culture of eating and cooking, with contributions by various authors. The column name is borrowed from the title of a book by Claude Levi-Strauss. It is spontaneous, a little amusing but serious at the same time.

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