April 21, 2011
I had often seen TV chefs use cilantro in their cooking, but never actually tasted it. I just assumed it was delicious based on what they said about it. Well, this year, I finally got a taste of it. My sister and niece had recently fallen in love with vietnamese pho soup - they couldn't get enough. "You gotta try this!" she kept telling me. We went to the car show (along with my mom, another cilantro virgin) and afterwards decided to eat at this "wonderful" pho place. We placed our orders and waited.
When the bowls of soup came and the waiter set them down on the table, I noticed the cilantro floating around. I knew what it was, I had seen it plenty of times on TV. I put some beansprouts in, gave it a stir, and took a whiff. It smelled sort of funny, but I had never had pho before, and thought that that was how it was supposed to smell. My sister and niece were lapping it up, and we had the same thing, so I assumed everything was ok. I twirled some noodles around my fork and tasted a hint of...dishwater. I looked at my sister. She was twirling away. I looked at my niece. Slurp slurp. Oh god, the beansprouts. I pulled them all out. Still tasted funny. Maybe it was my imagination. I tried a bit more. Still that dishwater aftertaste. Oh lord, it was the fork. The fork still had soap on it. I never checked it, and now its contaminated.
I got another fork, and gave it the smell test before putting it in the soup. Not a trace of soap. I tasted more noodles and still, that hint of dishwater. Maybe it was the noodles. I tasted some of the broth alone. O...M...G. There it was. There was broth, but there was also old dishwater after dishes had been washed and most of the bubbles dissipated. Flat and dirty and just a hint of dish soap. Maybe the restaurant hadn’t rinsed our bowls well. I asked my sister if her soup tasted funny. "Nope, its great" Twirl twirl, slurp slurp. I asked her to taste mine. "Tastes fine to me". “Hmm” I said. I started smelling each of the soup elements and when I got to cilantro I knew I had found the problem.
After we left the restaurant, my mom asked if the soup tasted weird to anyone else. “Yeah” I said “Like dishwater, right?” She thought for a moment, then nodded. “I think it was the cilantro” I told her. She grimaced.