You say culantro, I say cilantro?

I was thinking back to the time that I went to eat at Sripraphai Thai Restaurant in Woodside, Queens. It’s been around for ages, so if you haven’t been, definitely go! (See below for the picture of the dishes my husband and I got (Jungle Curry or (a brothy,herbaceous really spicy curry dish from the forests north of Thailand) and Khao Soi (a slightly spicy curry dish with noodles and crispy noodles). Delicious!

Sripraprai Yumminess!

It made me start thinking about something that I think about every now and again. Ingredients and what we consider “normal” or basic ingredients isn’t what everyone considers “normal” or basic. When I think of ingredients that I usually have in my kitchen, they may not be what you have in your kitchen. What is normal in a Thai Kitchen for example.

There was an ingredient that was unfamiliar to me in the Jungle Curry ( a weird name when I saw that it is made in a foresty-northern region of Thailand, but hey..) it looked like capers on a stick or these fluffy pompom things that my mom’s curtains had when I was growing up. I googled Thai ingredients and it turned out to be fresh green peppercorns. If you eat them, they aren’t too spicy.

While finding my way to the peppercorns, I saw a whole bunch of ingredients that were unfamiliar. Culantro, I’ve heard of. It’s in the same family as cilantro and used in Mexican, Dominican, Caribbean and Vietnamese cooking. It’s funny, I remember one of the cooks I worked with many jobs ago found some growing in the cracks of the sidewalk in his neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Cilantro vs. culantro illustration

What do you usually have in your kitchen? I love cooking global food, and with spice and flavor. So I have a big spice rack filled with things. I love smoked paprika (pimenton) (use it in paella or to replace the smokiness in a dish – also if you don’t like heat, you can add it to dishes that call for chipotle. (I know NOT the same, but my mom can’t deal with heat at all and have used it in dishes for her to offer the nice smokiness that chipotle has without the spice), saffron (also for paella, risotto, biryani rice dishes) I think saffron offers a comforting sense to a dish. (Did you know that saffron is the MOST expensive spice in the world and it’s the stamen of a crocus? ), Star anise -(a star shaped spice with a licorice/anise flavor) (common in Vietnamese cooking – in Pho Broth, also an ingredient in 5 spice powder). In my opinion, this brings dishes to another level. I don’t like licorice but this is a more complex flavor. I love star anise with chili or with basil. They work well with each other). Besides spices, I have Olive oil and another Vegetable oil like sunflower oil, toasted sesame oil – also a lovely burst of flavor to finish a stirfry or add to a salad dressing with orange (sesame-orange-basil YUM), Vegetarian and vegan cooking is all about the layering of flavors. Because we’re not using animal proteins, we need to build the umami in other ways.

This is why I love cooking for people and teaching people how to cook. Food is such an individualized thing. What you like isn’t what I like. What I grew up eating wasn’t what you grew up with. Burnt Toast Kitchen NYC can help you expand your knowledge and learn different techniques and ingredients. I have been interested in food since I was a child and have only been learning since then. Check out my group classes schedule and events page and services page on my website to see how I can work with you. I also do one-on-one classes (or small groups) in your home or at an offsite kitchen. If you hate cooking or want someone to do if for you, I can do meal prep in your home or deliver meals to you as well. Looking forward to working with you!

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