The Spice I Can’t Live Without: Coriander Seeds
They’re more versatile than you might think
Mildly sweet and citrusy with a subtle crunch and floral air, coriander seeds are, hands down, my favorite spice. While the flavor of the fresh leaves from coriander (known most commonly in American English as cilantro) is divisive due to a genetic variation, resulting in a “cilantro-hating gene,” the dried seeds are not. They’re used in cuisines all over the world, from India to Germany, South Africa to Russia. In India, coriander seeds are roasted (dhana dal) or mixed with other seeds (like fennel seeds) and candied (mukhwas), then eaten as an after meal breath freshener and digestive aid. They’re also a main component in Indian garam masala, Moroccan ras el hanout, savory Yemeni hawaij, and Egyptian dukkah.
Basically, coriander seeds are awesome little spheres loaded with warm, nutty, orange-y flavors that can be harnessed in a multitude of ways, from spices mixes to pickles, sausages to beers, breads to curries, soups, and stews.
My favorite way to use coriander seeds (and ground coriander)
While the versatility of coriander seeds might make it overwhelming to know where to start, there’s one “recipe” I would suggest you try first to enjoy the flavor and texture of the seeds working in harmonious collaboration with other toasty, delicious spices: dal with tempered spices—known as chhonk, chaunk, tadka, and various other names depending on which region of the Indian subcontinent you’re from.
I first came across this method in writer Priya Krishna’s cookbook, Indian-ish, and the more I learned about and tried it out in my own kitchen, the more I came to see just how important this tempering step was for bringing out the true flavors of the spices for any dish, in any cuisine. Whether the spices are added to a pan and cooked in fat, hot oil is poured over a bowl of aromatics (like in Xueci’s recipe for Chinese cold noodles), or seeds are added to a baking sheet and roasted directly with vegetables or meats, most spices benefit from some exposure to heat to bring out their full flavor.
To experience coriander in my favorite, simply tempered method, try this recipe for lentil dal and add two teaspoons of coriander seeds to the chhonk (step 2).
For more recipes with coriander seeds or ground coriander, look no further:
Published on October 13, 2020