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I mentioned the book Thai Food in an answer to another question. This reminded me of one of my longest running quandaries with it. Many of the recipes mention “coriander root”. I am aware of being able to buy the seeds (whole or ground) or the leaves, but I have never seen for sale anything calling itself coriander root.

Has anyone managed to source this, or am I missing something obvious?

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It's the root part of the coriander ("cilantro") plant. Supposedly the root is considerably different from the leaves in flavor (and the seeds are another thing too!). You can't really cook the leafy part without it tasting weird, but the root isn't like that. I've never seen the stuff, unless it's been at an Asian market, labeled in Vietnamese or Thai! –  Pointy Jul 21 '10 at 14:21
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7 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It is just the root of the coriander plant. Certainly at least here (UK) you can buy living coriander plants in the supermarket; you could pull one out of the pot and use the root from that.

Apparently you can also subsitute 2 stems of coriander for every piece of root called for in the recipe, but I've never tried this.

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I had never thought of trying that with a living coriander plant. Doh! –  Jeremy French Jul 21 '10 at 14:30
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In the US, the leaves and stems are known as Cilantro and the seed is known as Coriander. But its the same plant. –  Daniel Bingham Jul 21 '10 at 15:10
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In the USA, Coriander is referred to Cilantro, when used in context of herb/green.

Possible sources (to purchase Cilantro aka Coriander with root):

  • vendors at some farmer's markets (this is where I get mine)
  • "South East Asian" or "Latin American" grocery stores
  • "Indian" Grocery stores
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If it's not carried in a local Asian market (and they won't order it) then try asking at a local Thai or Asian restaurant. If they're using it they might very likely be willing to sell to you or order from their supplier.

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did you mean restaurant and the end of your first sentence? You said "Asian market" twice. –  Ben McCormack Jul 23 '10 at 2:11
    
@Ben: Thanks...yep, should have been restaurant! Change made. –  Darin Sehnert Jul 23 '10 at 2:19
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"Cilantro" is actually a stage of growth of the Coriander plant; it is when the leaves are broad and light green, prior to flowering (aka Bolting). If the plant has flowered the taste becomes increasingly bitter and should not be used in recipes calling for coriander.

I would second the suggestion to buy a live plant and simply take the root. I've also been told that you can use the stems as a substitute but haven't tried it.

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"you can use the stems as a substitute" -- The roots actually taste quite different from the stems. –  joyjit Jul 21 '10 at 16:39
    
@joyjit: Any other alternative would taste more different! –  Arafangion Oct 6 '10 at 10:10
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According to Thai Supermarket Online - http://importfood.com/ - 'A fine quality coriander seed can been used in various curry pastes and other condiment recipes as an excellent substitute for corriander root'.

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The only place I have seen coriander roots thick enough to be used in cooking is in Thailand. The coriander we find in Europe has roots so thin you can't use them. The roots are much more fragrant than the leaves and yield much better flavouring results when used for cooking.

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According to a Thai friend, the root tastes completely different from the seeds and the leaves. From experience, as I use it often, the stems taste almost exactly like the leaves.

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