Cilantro is one of the most widely used herbs. It is part of almost all south Asian curries and many savory dishes. But do you know there are other plants that are so similar in taste to that of cilantro that if you put them in some dish you may mistake it for cilantro? In India, we call Cilantro, Coriander leaves since the seeds are called coriander seeds. These other plants are Culantro/ Mexican coriander and Rau Ram/Vietnamese Coriander.
Cilantro- Coriandrum sativum
Culantro- Eryngium foetidum
Rau Ram- Persicaria odorata
It is not difficult to identify these plants by their looks. Cilantro has thready delicate leaves and grows tall up to 1 meter. Culantro plants are tiny and grow to 6–8 inches tall. Whereas Rau Ram/ Vietnamese coriander grows like mint plants. They send out runners and grow flat on the ground once the stems reach about 10–12 inches tall.
Tastewise, cilantro has the most subtle flavor. I know some of my friends. They find even Cilantro strong and cannot tolerate the smell. But most people like it. Then there is Culantro which is much stronger than cilantro. I use only 2–3 leaves for garnishing but I love my dishes loaded with a lot of chopped cilantro. I’m sure as I get used to this new flavor, I’m definitely going to like it. Sometimes it takes time to adapt to new tastes. As long as the new food is a healthy choice, I like to try new things.
This third plant Rau Ram or Vietnamese Coriander is the strongest of these all. The smell is a little bit different from that of Cilantro. In addition to the aroma of the Cilantro, it also has some other smell that makes it much more pungent. It goes in chicken salad and soups for garnishing. But I have used it for fish along with fresh lemongrass, oregano, rosemary, and garlic leaves when I made stuffed fish. It blended with other herbs so beautifully. Really loved it. If you like herbal aromas then these are some new options for you.