Thursday, February 22, 2007

Geera Pork and Chadon Beni Sauce


It’s always a pleasure to meet and fall in love with a new herb. The smelling…the tasting. Running your hands through its leaves then holding them up to your face and inhaling deeply, filling your lungs with the scent of your new herby love. Scouring cookbooks, magazines, and the internet for information. Trying it in new recipes and discovering new flavor combinations. Seeing how it fits with this food or that ingredient. A blissful journey filled with surprises.

That’s how I felt the first time I met culantro. I already loved cilantro, but culantro was so much more. Its flavor and scent were more intense. In fact, when you cook with it, the ghost of its scent lingers everywhere. You can read about culantro and my discovery of it here. I first used it in a Vietnamese style soup. Then C added it in a typical local salad of tomatoes, onions, and bagoong (shrimp paste). In both cases this wonderful herb performed outstandingly. After these more Asian-inspired dishes, I wanted to try something from where culantro originated – the West Indies. I had never cooked anything from the Caribbean and this was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I look over my March 2006 issue of Saveur where I found a lot of culantro-info in a feature on Trinidad.

Perusing the article (and getting swept away in my desire to visit Carnival!) and all the recipes included, a recipe for a dish called Geera Pork kept tugging at me in that insistent “Make me!” way that some recipes have. The recipe sounded tempting enough, using culantro, garlic, parsley, thyme, spring onions, allspice, cumin, and garam masala. So Geera Pork it was! I changed the quantities somewhat to suit what I had, as well as up the quantity of certain flavors. I also used pork steak instead of pork loin (more fat…heehee).

Geera Pork (Curried Pork)
(adapted from Saveur March 2006, page 73)

  • 500 grams pork steak, cut in 1 inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 ½ tablespoons chopped culantro
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ tablespoon ground allspice
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salt
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala dissolved in ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 sili labuyo (bird’s eye chilli) – original recipe called for scotch bonnet or jabanero

- Place garlic, spring onions, culantro, parsley, thyme, and 1/8 cup water in a food processor, or the bowl of an immersion blender, and process until mixture is smooth.
- Transfer to a bowl and add the pork, allspice, pepper, and salt to taste. Toss to coat well, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- When you are ready to cook the pork, heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add the garam masal mixture (carefully!) and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
- Add pork and stir to coat well. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until pork is almost cooked, about 20 minutes.
- Toss in chilies and cumin and give it a stir. Cover and simmer until pork is tender, about 45 minutes to an hour. Uncover and cook until liquid has reduced to a thick paste. Add salt to taste if needed.
- Garnish with more chopped culantro.

In Trinidad, this is usually sold on the streets in small cups and eaten with Buss-Up-Shut, a Trinidad version of roti. Buss-Up-Shut takes its name from its appearance – looking like a “busted-up shirt”…now how adorable is that? Despite its cute name, I didn’t have time to make the Buss-Up-Shut, so instead ate it in a bowl lined with roti. It was definitely a new flavor for me! Well, actually more like a new dimension to an old flavor. It had the taste of the curries I’ve had before, but with a sharp new note…green and bright and strong…the culantro making its presence felt. C, who chose to eat it with rice, also liked it, saying that it “tastes like curry…but different”. It’s the same feeling you get when you travel to a new place and sense something familiar along with the exotic.


I still had culantro left after this, and I had to use it up fast, so I decided to make Chadon Beni Sauce, another recipe from the same article. Chadon Beni Sauce is basically culantro sauce and is used to make lots of curries in Trinidad and around. I cleaned and chopped my remaining culantro and ended up with 1 cup. To this I added 3 chopped spring onions, ½ a sili labuyo (bird’s eye chilli), and two cloves of peeled garlic. I blitzed the whole lot with my immersion blender until it formed a rough paste, and seasoned to taste with salt. I put this in a ziplock bag and popped it in the freezer for future use. Perhaps for Chicken Pelau, another Trinidadian dish. I’m not over with the Caribbean just yet.


As this entry really centered on my discovery of, and subsequent captivation with, this delicious herb culantro, I am submitting it to this weekend’s round of Weekend Herb Blogging (my first time to join!). This event was started by the fantastic Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and is hosted this week by Anna of Anna’s Cool Finds.

37 comments:

Anna Haight said...

Wow! This looks amazing, and I've never heard of culantro! Welcome to WHB!

Ree said...

i love cilantro! i never heard of culantro though. what is it? where can you get it? do you use it in the same way you'd use cilantro?

angelika said...

Great write-up, as usual, Joey. I love your description about how to explore a new herb. I am such a big herb and spice lover as well ! Culantro is totally new to me ! So when I see it one time I know that it's not just spelled in the wrong way... Have a pleasant weekend, angelika

ChichaJo said...

Hi Anna! Thanks! I had never heard of it either until I read that Saveur feature on Trinidad :)

Hi Ree! I love cilantro too...culantro is similar in taste but stronger. I got it when I went to Charley's Farm Dining and Organic Produce in Lipa. She has an amazing herb garden. She says that she will outsource her produce to Herbana Farms in the Salcedo Market so I'm keeping my eye out for that :) So far I have gotten recipes using culantro (Vietnamese and Trinidadian) but I would definitely try to use it as I do cilantro (the experimenting is the fun part!)...Next time I want to try it in a salmon sinigang...

Hi Angelika! Thank you! :) It was new to me to and boy did I love making use of it, heehee! I was thrown off by the spelling as well :) It's great...packs quite a punch! Happy weekend to you as well!

sha said...

i was in south west greece to meet up a greek chef i met in france
and he said the first time he brought cilantro (out of topic) his family thought they were grasses

greek cooking do not use it
so he re planted
this time over the weekend we cooked mussels and we added cilantro all his greek family asked what we had cooked the mussels with?;-)

JMom said...

I too have been searching for culantro! I want to plant some in our garden this year. Our cilantro did really well, so I'm hoping culantro will flourish too. If I find it, I will definitely be trying out this dish.

Teacher or Student said...

I really want to try culantro. I saw it once on a blog and I've wanted to try it ever since. Great entry for WHB!

Maricel said...

Could this be the same or rather the plant from which the local culantro seeds come from. I haven't come across a local recipe that actually uses the culantro seeds as an ingredient. I think the seeds are basically boiled in water and used to bathe someone with measles.

Melting Wok said...

hi Joey, thx for dropping in my blog :) ooh..I think I've seen culantro at the Vietnamese g.market, but they do not have a proper name for it, great to know what it is & your mild-spicy curry with this fine herb sounds delicious, thanks for sharing, cheers !:)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Sha! Those mussels sound lovely and glad to hear the Greek family liked it :) I love trying new tastes from different parts of the worlds...and of couse, I love your Greece stories :)

Hi Jmom! I'm glad I found it here and a friend told me she had seen some in a local market so looks like I will be able to find some again...hooray! They look pretty hardy so perhaps they will do well in your garden :)

Hi Teacher or Student! Thanks :) You could say I came upon it kinda by accident but I'm sure glad I did :) Do grab some if it crosses you path!

Hi Maricel! I have not yet come across culantro seeds so I wouldn't know for sure if it's from the same plant...though they do hve the same name...where can I find them? Hmmm, wish I knew that bit of info when I had measles!

Hi Melting Wok! Thank you! I am found lots of recipes that use it and can think up of even more ways...you should try some :)

Veron said...

I have never heard of culantro, but I love anything to do with pork so I'll have to look this up. I admire your creativity in using a new herb!

Helene said...

It´s so delicious. The way you make us know: great. :))

ChichaJo said...

Hi Veron! Thanks! :) I share your love for pork and you've got some awesome pork dishes yourself! :)

Hi Helene! Thanks for you nice comment :)

Anh said...

I love Saveur Magazine, but it is so expensive here in Australia! Your dish looks and sound great! :D

Gattina said...

Great found!!! I always love pork pairing with cilantro, now, I have to get this culantro!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Anh! Thank you :) Saveur is expensive here too (in the Philippines) but I hunt for cheaper back issues ;)

Hi Gattina! Thanks! Pork and cilantro is a delicious combination...and culantro works amazingly well with it too :)

Mareza said...

i have heard of culantro but never used it. i have
traveled a lot and tasted food everywhere but never had the chance to write it down...i took a lot of pics but it's not the same.anyways i love reading books
about cooking and i do love reading food blogs and enjoyed yours tremendously.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Mareza! I'm glad you enjoyed reading this :) You should put up a photo blog of all your travels!

Chennette said...

Hi - I'm Trini and we call the culantro, chadon beni (French patois for "blessed herb"; pronounced shadow benny)) or bandhania (the Indo-Trini word) and use it as a staple in our fresh green seasonings, and in chutneys and curries, and almost everything. I have a photo here where you can see the thorny top of the plant; the edible leaves grow from the base, on the ground http://www.flickr.com/photos/chennette/383048534/

ChichaJo said...

Hi Chennette! Thanks for the link! You're lucky your sister is growing them in her yard :) I really am glad to have discovered culantro here...I love it! I want to try more dishes with it...

Anonymous said...

hi i live in trtinidad ( all my life) i was looking for a good recipe on geera pork and your site came up it's very cool that it's one that isn't trini. hope you have enjoyed our food and our culture.and speaking for all my friends that i told about this site thak goodness you got the names (local versions) right it seems to be problem if you like chadon beni's pungency you should definitely try local chive(pronounced "sigh-ve")
jah bless- annie

ChichaJo said...

Hi Annie! It was all thanks to a series of happy accidents...first finding the culantro, and then the feature on Trinidad in Saveur magazine :) I was very happy with the discovery...I love the flavor of culantro! The correct spellings can be credited to Saveur magazine where I got all my info :) I would love to try more of your local herbs but culantro is the only one I have been able to find locally...soon more will appear I hope! :)

The TriniGourmet said...

So glad to see Trini food culture being sampled around the world :) Happy that you enjoyed it :)!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Trinigourmet! It was a revelation! :) I definitely enjoyed it...I froze some chadon beni sauce and I'm thinking of chicken pelau next!

phototakeouter said...

Another Trini here, looks like plenty people searching for chadon beni/culantro sauces. I'm going to try a thing a lil later myself. Will probably use some more local herbs and substitute oil for water.

One point about your post - I'm not so sure about geera pork being sold with roti. Most Indians here, with roti being a traditionally Indian dish, don't eat pork for religious reasons and I personally have never seen geera pork being sold with roti in small cups on any streets anywhere. :) Maybe I just haven't found the right street yet.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Phototakeouter! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment :) It's so nice to see a lot of Trinis popping in here...I'm thrilled! Thanks for your notes on the geera pork and roti. Makes sense! I got the info from Saveur...perhaps they were the ones who wandered down the wrong street? :) In any case, it was really yummy :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there, Does anyone know where I can get Chadon Beni in jacksonville Florida? I've been looking for this herb for quite sometime.If you do, please let me know and email me at
angelhearts1@myway.com

ChichaJo said...

Hi there Anon! Wish I could help but I don't live in the states...so sorry!

mozambrooklyn said...

culantro is also known to the puerto ricans as Recao- in NY this is how I had to find it- I went to a local latin market, and behold- it looks like dandelion leaves.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Mozambrooklyn! Thanks for sharing those tips! I now have an organic farmer here who grows it so I’ve got my supply :) It’s amazing how much comments this herb has generated for an old post...well, it’s really that good!

Anonymous said...

wow....i always wanted to make geera and i have to tell you this recipe is bang on - absolutley delicious...i substituted the pork for sliced up boneless skinless chicken breaszxt and it is absolutely amazing!!! thanks for sharing!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Anonymous! So glad to hear you enjoyed the recipe! :)

Anonymous said...

...i am same anonymous as above...my boyfriend is trinidadian...and i now make this for him literqally (not joking) every weekend - he requests it every week lol! he is also so happy that i know how to make his favourite dish. and when i asked how does it measure up to what he is acustom to in trinidad he says i am very close or just as good. I never tried his geera when i went to trinidad but this next time i go its the first thing i want...again thanks for sharing this recipe and giving me the opportunity to do something nice for my sweetheart! by the way what you call culantro, many refer to simply as chadon beni (ther is many versions of the spelling).....

ChichaJo said...

Hi Anonymous! Thanks for reporting back! I'm very happy to hear that you and your boyfriend are enjoying this...and the my Geera pork has passed with a true Trinidadian!

Anonymous said...

chichajo....not only did it pass with my trini boyfriend, i am now making huge batches of the seasoning for freezing and up til christmas he had me making it every weekend for him to carry home an to work lol! by the way - i always use chicken in this recipe instead of pork for him...boneless skinless chicken breast cut up same way as you would the pork. sometimes i do a pot of each...can't thank you enough for posting this recipe!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Anonymous! You are very welcome and I'm glad to be of help :) So happy that you and your boyfriend really like it! I do to :)

Isabel Rodrigo said...

I do salivate whenever you took photos. You have a very keen eye for details! Kudos!