Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An herb naming issue and I feel dumb

Photo from: Viable Herbal Solutions

As a resident of Singapore for the last two years, there have been many North American cooking ingredients that I've been unable to find. As a result, I've had to tweak many recipes or avoid them all together.

One thing I've never found: cilantro.

It was a difficult thing to go without since I cook Mexican food about every other day to make up for the lack in the entire country. (I consume enough to even us all out. Don't you worry.) Cilantro is a very important ingredient in a lot of Mexican dishes, including PW's Homemade Pico de Gallo that I wanted to try back in January.

So I sucked it up and tried my best to get by without it at all. Then, I even had Aaron's sweet Aunt Debbie mail us some dried cilantro to get by.

It seemed Singapore had a cilantro famine and I had given up all hope of finding it.

You know what herb they did have everywhere though? Chinese parsley.

Do you know what Chinese parsley is?

It's cilantro.

Someone just told me about it. After two years of living in the Cilantro Desert.

It is the same frickin' thing, just with a different name.

I've gone two years without this tasty herb in my Mexican cooking because of a simple naming discrepancy.

Is this common knowledge to everyone but me? Does everyone talk about this at all the dinner parties I don't go to?

What else do people in Singapore talk about that I don't know? Where to find Sonic cheeseburgers? Where the real sour cream is?

What else do you people know?


Brad Farless said...

If you manage to find the 'fruit & cream' or '...& cinnamon' flavored varieties of Quaker oatmeal (for under 100 bucks a box) please do let me know. -_-

I've had my mom mailing over No Bake Jello Cheesecake too.

Megan said...

Oh, you let me know as well! We stocked up on those exact oatmeal varieties the last time we were in the States and just packed them in our suitcases.

Cheesecake wouldn't be too hard to do here if you couldn't get the mix stuff. It'd just take a while. Cream cheese isn't too expensive (if you get over the fact that you can't buy the "off" brand).

FISH said...

Heh... funny you should write this.

I absolutely HATE cilantro. HATE, HATE, HATE. Like gag reflex kicks in HATE. So, ya, I figured out the Chinese Parsley thing pretty quickly.

But, last week when I was in India I noticed at dinner the restaurant's soup had cilantro in it. So, I ordered my without. Then when I got my soup, it had cilantro. Argh. I complained and the waiter said, "no cilantro". Then I asked what the disgusting, leafy garnish was.

Apparently, they call cilantro "coriander" in India.

Brad Farless said...

I actually prefer the Jello no-bake kind to the real kind. Don't know why.

Luke and Benjamin's mom said...

This sounds like something I would do.
Now you should buy all the cilantro in Singapore and then there really will be a dearth. :)

Ng Xuanyi said...

hello! I was googling for bumpits when I chanced upon your blog. haha, hilarious much!I am singaporean (as you can tell from my absurdly-chinese sounding name) and I just had to reply. if you want to find imported groceries, go to the high-er end supermarkets, such as Jasons or cold storage or basically the supermarkets you can find in orchard (tanglin mall, paragon etc) they carry tonnes of imported stuff at absurd prices, but I succumb to them sometimes, cause many of the food items i read online (such as from kraft, lean cuisine) can't be found easily! Anyway, NO BAKE CHEESECAKE IS SOLD HERE. get it at jason's, ive seen it many times, its a bit expensive, but surely cheaper than mailing it from the US yes? Not sure about cinnamon flavored QUAKER, but you can get cinnamon flavored oatmeal at jasons/cold storage too, the brand is nature's path if I never remmeber wrongly, tastes just as great. (i know because Ive been to canada AND tasted quaker cinnamon oatmeal). hope that helps!

Deidre said...

I didn't know about the chinese parsley - but they do call it coriander in Australia too.

Which is funny because I always thought that coriander was a different herb in the states. Whoops.

Anonymous said...

It isn't unusual and there are many other food stuffs having several names, e.g. okra = lady finger in asia.

Anyway, there are 2 Mexican restaurants in Holland Village.

- Jen

Brad Farless said...

That's weird. I always thought coriander and cilantro were two different things too.

I just looked it up and found that in the US (and the rest of the Americas) it's known as cilantro because that's the Spanish word for the plant. Makes sense, since it was Mexican cooking that Megan was talking about using it in a lot.

I never did like that word though. Coriander sounds more manly.

Anonymous said...

The Chinese Cilantro here is not the same as the one back in the states. It tastes totally different. We've been trying to make good guac(amole) here but when we use the chinese parsley here it doesnt taste the same. It's a tad bitter.

Have you tried growing it?

Debbie said...

Coriander is the SEED and cilantro is the leafy part if you plant the seed. I LOVE cilantro (despite the fact that my husband hates it--see FISH's comment above). I discovered cilantro was Chinese Parsley on one of my first trips to the grocery store when we moved here. (I actually discretely tasted "chinese parsley" while standing in the produce area of Cold Storage since it looked exactly like cilantro). Sure enough, to me it tastes the same as the stuff from the US! :) Now I frequently tell people that when they move here! Along with abergines being eggplant and when you occassionally see canned black beans or crushed tomatoes in the store buy as much as you can because it may be a long time until you see them again! As for the cinnamon oatmeal...just make your own mix!

or make my favorite

Maple Brown Sugar Mix SERVES 9

1/2 cup non-dairy powdered coffee creamer
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For each batch of oatmeal
2/3 cup quick-cooking oat
1/3-1/2 cup boiling water

1) Combine the first seven ingredients and mix well; store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 6 months; this will make about 9 servings of oatmeal.
2) To prepare: Combine oats and 2 tablespoons of oatmeal mix; add enough boiling water until oatmeal is desired consistency.
3)sprinkle with additional brown sugar and a few drops of maple syrup if desired.