A confession

I have a confession to make…one of those things that my close friends already know, but I find myself cringing every time I have to say out loud to a new acquaintance.

I do not like cilantro.

I’m not at all a picky-eater. In fact, I find myself quite turned off by adults who are overly-selective about what they will and will not try. In my opinion, there are very few things so weird/different/unappetizing that I wouldn’t at least have a bite. But I have tried to appreciate cilantro many times and every time, unfortunately, find myself reeling at the taste it leaves.

For years, while I was growing up and still living at home, my mom tried to convert me. She would throw some cilantro garnish on her braised beef noodle soup before serving, or expertly hide some minced cilantro leaves in her dumplings and wontons, or any number of endlessly creative ways to get me to like the stuff. At restaurants, I would avoid it all together or diligently pick off any little bits of cilantro that wound up on my dishes, whether it be pho in a Vietnamese restaurant or those delicious bowls of my favorite Taiwanese beef noodle soup that seem to always be plagued by the little green monsters.

Then one day, a few years ago, I realized something earth-shattering…those tiny little specks of green in salsas are cilantro! And the darned thing was in my beloved guacamole as well…

This was a game-changer for me and slowly, over the last few years, I started to experiment more with cilantro and take note of the times when I liked cilantro in something and when I didn’t. And I came to realize that I cilantro, to me, is best when its pungency is paired with something strongly acidic, such as in salsas and guacamole and pho with a strong dose of lime juice and vinegary Sriracha.

Recently, I tried cooking with cilantro for the first time. I had been holding off on this, usually substituting parsley or opting for complete omission in recipes, because I was scared of adding too much of it, thus rendering something inedible to me (it’s always so heartbreaking when you pour hours of love and labor into a dish and then are let-down by the results—I usually can’t even look at my kitchen failures…not unlike a bad break-up). But I need to shout this from the rooftops: this sauce is delicious. It is for anyone who “hates” cilantro, but finds their taste buds inexplicably happy when eating tacos, or chips and guac, or any number of Mexican dishes containing the c-word.

I used this sauce to dress a Chipotle-style burrito bowl with brown rice, my favorite pico de gallo (recipe below), roasted sweet potatoes, fajita-spiced chicken and bell peppers, some lettuce, and beans. It was a very delicious, tasty and nutritious dinner.

Cilantro avocado lime sauce
1/2 avocado
1 cup cilantro leaves and stems
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lime, juiced (or to taste)
5 dashes Tabasco (or to taste)

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor of blender. Blend till well-incorporated. Taste for seasoning.

Pico de gallo (adapted from epicurious)
2 medium plum tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 medium/large white onion, diced
1/2 to 1 whole jalapeno, finely chopped (or to taste)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Combine all ingredients. Mix well, and refrigerate for 30 minutes till flavors blend.
  2. Taste for seasoning before serving.
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