Chinese parsley, or cilantro, is a member of the carrot family. The plant and its leaves are also called Mexican parsley and coriander in different parts of the world. Its seeds are known as dhania in many parts of central Asia.
The plant is quite common in Chinese cuisine. Its leaves, stems and even the root are edible. Those who enjoy the springy herb in their food often describe the taste as strong and tangy, with a tantalising aroma.
Chinese parsley features prominently is Asian and Latin cuisines. Chinese cooks use it in soups, sauces, stir-fries, and also as a garnish. Although there is no specific recipe in Chinese cuisine such as “stir-fried” parsley, it is used as one of the main garnishes. Because of its distinctive taste and smell, chefs have often said it is difficult to finish a whole plate of a dish based solely on Chinese parsley. However, it can be chopped up into small pieces, or sometimes added as long stems to give the food a fresh taste. It works especially well with seafood dishes such as steamed fish.
Perhaps the reason the Chinese use this herb so liberally is because of the many health benefits attached to it. For one, it is loaded with vitamins A, B, C and K, apart from being rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium and manganese. Second, it is packed with anti-oxidants and is a great source of dietary fibre. Moreover, the seeds of Chinese parsley are rich in several essential oils such as borneol, cineole, cymene, pinene and linalool, and are often used to help reduce the feeling of nausea and vomiting.
When choosing Chinese parsley, look for leaves that have a bright green colour. They have to be devoid of yellow spots, and there should be no evidence of wilting. To make sure they stay fresh, place the stem (with the roots if attached) in a glass or pot of water and cover the top with a plastic bag and refrigerate. If you’re chopping off the leaves, wrap them in a damp cloth and refrigerate. Make sure you do not wash the leaves until just before you add them to your dish, or they will wilt.
Get to know your other Asian greens here: Guide to Asian greens.
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