Cocina Criolla on Last Chance Foods: A Compromise for Cilantro Haters?

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Cocina Criolla / Food / Radio / WNYC
Culantro (Photo: Marin Watts)

Culantro (Photo: Marin Watts)

Originally published on June 27, 2014 on WNYC.

Cilantro could very well be the world’s most polarizing herb. Those who vehemently hate it may have the aversion coded in their genes, while others happily add it to everything from salsas to soups. But maybe there’s a middle ground to be found in the cilantro wars. Perhaps cilantro’s cousin culantro is the herb diplomat to please both parties.

Culantro, with its long, narrow, slightly serrated leaves, is popularly used in Latin and Caribbean cuisine. “Culantro has kind of the base flavor of cilantro but it’s much earthier,” journalist and food writer Von Diaz explained. “It’s much more tame. It almost tastes like a hybrid of cilantro and parsley.”

She described culantro as the cornerstone herb of Puerto Rican food. “We use it extensively in making what’s called ‘racaito,’ which is a component of sofrito, which I’m sure a lot of people have heard of,” Diaz said. “It’s basically a spice paste blend that’s garlic, onions, culantro, and peppers, which you then turn into a paste. You cook it down and it becomes really the base of whatever dish you’re making.”

Read more on WNYC’s Last Chance Foods.

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The Author

Von Diaz is a writer and radio producer based in New York City. She is a self-taught cook who explores Puerto Rican food, culture, and identity through memoir and multimedia. Her work has been featured on NPR, American Public Media, StoryCorps, WNYC, PRI’s The World, BuzzFeed, Colorlines, and Feet in 2 Worlds.

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