17 (Wed) August 2011
Mackerel with Cilantro Chutney
by Nanny 2
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
For the most part, Koreans abhor cilantro. They can’t seem to handle the herb’s distinct perfumy flavor, which is a bit curious given the wide variety of distinct perfumy herbs that Koreans do appreciate, such as perilla leaves. Whenever I make that comparison, however, the Koreans always reply, “But perilla leaves are soooo good!” In any case, this general abhorrence explains in part why cilantro is not automatically included as an ingredient in or accompaniment to or garnish on dishes that traditionally would, such as salsa or pho. I would venture to say that the majority of pho restaurants in Korea, which have enjoyed mainstream success for the better part of a decade and no longer rely on annoying foreigners who insist on keeping it real, don’t have a strand of cilantro on the premises even as an optional side.
On the other much smaller hand, some Koreans relish the stuff with an almost perverse passion. My friend MtG piles cilantro on everything and in sickening quantity, if and to the extent available. Ethnic Koreans from China, like our nanny, also love it.
Our nanny often brings home huge bundles of cilantro. She buys it at a market in her neighborhood, where it’s sold for laughably cheap in contrast to the outrageously high prices at upscale supermarkets and specialty stores catering to foreigners – an issue that I’ll reserve for another post someday. Along with garlic and scallions and onions, she likes to use cilantro as a base aromatic, as in this chutney-like concoction.
I couldn’t possibly categorize tonight’s dish as Korean, given the aforementioned cultural abhorrence to cilantro. That would be like calling something “Israeli Pork Chops.”
(See also FOODS.)
(See also PLACES.)