You say Cilantro, I say Culantro. Why? Because Culantro is not Cilantro. Eryngium foetidum has long leaves with tapered tips and serrated edges. And Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum L. has bright green leaves and stems that resembles flat-leaf parsley. One detail is the taste; the flavor is similar, but stronger than Cilantro. Being of Latina origin, my cooking styles tend to use it a lot. I admit “sofrito” is my favorite paste. What can I say? What Basil is to pesto, Culantro is to sofrito. In the other hand, I would have to also add my favorite Asian dish. I, myself, love Vietnamese Pho soup which is packed with lots of fresh vegetable, including fresh Culantro! The soup mixed with the fresh garnishes tastes Ggggreat!
Eryngium foetidum is a tropical perennial and annual herb in the family Apiaceae. It is native to Mexico and South America but is cultivated worldwide. It is relatively unknown in the United States, and is often mistaken for its relative Cilantro. It is also known by many other names, such as Fitweed, Puerto Rican coriander, saw leaf herb, Mexican coriander, Shado beni (Trinidad), Chadron benee (Dominica), Alcapate (El Salvador), Cilantro habanero, Cilantro extranjero (Mexico). Culantro is an herb with a pungent odor; the leaves have toothed margins and they grow in a basal rosette pattern. It grows best under moist, shaded conditions near cultivated areas.
Culantro is rich in iron, carotene, riboflavin and calcium; it is better suited to being frozen than the more delicate leaves of cilantro. This plant is widely used as food flavoring and seasoning herb for dishes and chutney in the Caribbean; it is popular in Asia for food use. Puerto Rico uses it extensively in stews, soups, and beans.
1 pack of fresh Culantro, chopped
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
8 to 12 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper or 3 aji dulce (sweet chili peppers), seeded and chopped
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro (leaves and tenders stems only), chopped
1/2 cup fresh oregano (loosely packed), optional
In a food process or a blender, add the onions, garlic and olive oil. Pulse for about 30 seconds or until mixture is a white puree. Repeat, adding peppers. Repeat again adding fresh herbs. The final sofrito should be somewhat smooth. Sofrito is ready to use as a fresh bouillon base and keeps in the refrigerator for a few days. It can also be frozen in an airtight jar or into smaller portions, such as ice cubes, for convenient use.
4 quarts beef broth
1 large onion, sliced into rings
6 slices fresh ginger root
1 lemon grass
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 pound sirloin tip, cut into thin slices
1/2 pound bean sprouts
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh culantro leaves
3 fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced into rings
2 limes, cut into wedges
2 (8 ounce) packages dried rice noodles
1/2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 dash hot pepper sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce
In a large soup pot, combine broth, onion, ginger, lemon grass, cinnamon, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer for 1 hour.
Arrange bean sprouts, mint, basil, and Culantro on a platter with chilies and lime.
Soak the noodles in hot water to cover for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain. Place equal portions of noodles into 6 large soup bowls, and place raw beef on top. Ladle hot broth over noodles and beef. Pass platter with garnishes and sauces.
Note: This soup is served with a plate full of fresh garnishes as well as various sauces. This allows each person to season their serving to taste.