I'm trying to make panang curry from scratch for my sister, who is allergic to cilantro (AKA coriander outside of the US). This is not the gene that causes it to taste bad - she cannot eat any part of the plant even in small amounts.

Many Thai curries call for cilantro root. This isn't something I've tasted by itself (though I hear it's sort of similar to the stems of the plant), and I'm not very good at pinpointing specific flavors to try to come up with alternatives anyway :)

What other herb or seasoning could I use to get a similar flavor?

If you can, please be specific in terms of ratios - many substitutions say "try a little of X with a bit of Y," but I don't know what the flavor I'm going for is so I can't taste-test... I would love to know how much of what substance I could use to replace e.g. 1 tablespoon chopped coriander root.

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    I don't about the root, but for the leaves I replace it with culantro, as it's similar but without the soapy bit. I seem to remember the roots of cilantro being a very strong cilantro flavor ... I don't remember if it was soapy, though. (I grew it one time in a hydroponic garden, so I tasted the roots; I've never actually cooked with it) – Joe Feb 27 '18 at 4:12
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    @Joe the issue is an allergy rather than the taste, but I'm glad you mentioned culantro. I've only seen it in Latin American processed foodstuffs and wrongly assumed it was a different spelling of cilantro. Knowing they aren't in the same genus makes me think it might be safe - only one way to find out, I suppose! – topicref Feb 27 '18 at 10:54

Just leaving it out is unlikely to result in a disappointing curry - some commercially sold panang pastes omit the coriander root too. What they do not usually omit, though, is the ground coriander seed that is common in all except gaeng kua paste (which is the simplest form of red curry paste, has no dry spices at all, and makes for a great curry still) and some specialty pastes.

Some recipes suggest adding "ginseng" - what they likely mean is krachai/fingerroot, which indeed has a "medicinal" taste that could make a good addition to a coriander-less paste.

Avoid a "broken window" effect to the flavor profile - don't make more "convenient" substitutions (eg using ginger in a red curry paste like this one, using onions for shallots, or using plain lime zest without also adding some kaffir lime leaf.), so the flavor profile is left as intact as you can leave it. Maybe you could also roast your own peanuts freshly. Long cooking time, topping with red bell pepper and chiffonaded kaffir lime leaf - get the other elements done really well.

  • Found frozen krachai at the store (thank goodness you used its Thai name and for Google Translate, the only label on it was in Thai), and it turned out perfect! My sister was so excited to get to have curry again, she hasn't had it since they figured out what she was allergic to 😊 – topicref Feb 27 '18 at 10:45
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    Krachai is also a "normal" ingredient in several lesser known curry types - julienned in gaeng pa, in the paste in gaeng kee lek...as a non-thai I can only assume it has to do with northern vs southern, since "southern" recipes for green curry paste seem to also include it (and turmeric too. Wonderful color :) ). – rackandboneman Feb 27 '18 at 11:07

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