With the arrival of warm weather comes the barbecue season. Coriander Root Paste is a kind of all purpose barbecue rub or marinade that takes its flavours from the southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand and Vietnam. It makes use of cilantro (coriander) plants that might otherwise be wasted due to bolting. This paste enhances chicken and fish particularly well, and there’s even a complimentary dipping sauce to go with it.

As the soil warms up in late spring and early summer, cilantro responds by bolting, or going to seed. From the plant’s perspective, the time for growing new leaves is over, so there is an urgent push to grow a central stem, flower, and seed. We call this bolting because of the surprising speed of the process. The first signs of bolting in cilantro are the development of a central stem which is often purple or dark green. Any new leaves that form are finely cut and feathery. The uppermost parts of the plant become less flavourful – but not so for the roots!

Cilantro that has bolted

Pull up any and all bolting cilantro plants, and cut the stem off, just above ground level. Carefully wash the roots to clean off all the soil particles, and follow this simple recipe.

In a mortar or food processor grind
3 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander root
3 – 4 cloves of garlic
1 – 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
4-5 Tbsp fish sauce (Thai or Vietnamese)

Use this to marinate two boneless, skinless chicken breasts with numerous shallow slices cut into the meat. It works just as well with fish such as trout or tilapia, beef or pork cubes, or tofu dogs. After at least two hours, grill on the barbecue, and serve with the following sauce.

Hot & Sweet Dipping Sauce

In a small saucepan, mix
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar

Stir over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then add

1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp (or to taste) crushed chile flakes

Stir and cool to room temperature.