Indian name and pronunciation:
Coriander in both its leaf and seed form is known as Dhania in India. This is its Hindi name and is pronounced as duh-nee-aah. The leaf is sometimes called Dhania Patta.
Dhania is called Dhaniyalu in Telugu, Dhana in Gujarati, Kothimir in Marathi, Dhonay in Bengali and Mallipodi in Tamil.
In its leaf form, it is commonly known as Cilantro in the USA and Canada.
Appearance, taste and smell:
Dhania in the leaf form is highly fragrant and has a distinctive smell which it imparts to any food it is added to.
A small percentage of people cannot eat the leaves as they taste 'soapy' to them. The entire plant is edible and the roots are known to be far more potent in flavour and fragrance than the leaves.
Dhania seeds smell different than the leaves and have a citrus undertone to them. They are 3-6 mm in diameter, round and delicately ridged and a tan or khaki color.
How and where to buy Dhania:
Due to the fact that Indian food is now hugely popular all over the world, it is a rare town or city anywhere in the world, that does not have a local Indian food supplies store! If you cannot find Dhania leaves and seeds in your local supermarket, you are sure to find them at any good Indian food supplies store.
I will always recommend buying the seeds as they can quite easily be dry roasted, cooled and then powdered in a clean, dry coffee grinder, as and when you require them in powder format for Indian cooking.
This ensure the fragrance and flavours remain potent for the longest time. For emergencies however, I always keep a small packet of readymade powder handy. Do not store this for too long as it loses its potency.
The leaves do not last long when removed from the plant so only buy small bunches and use quickly.
Look for fresh, unbruised leaves that are a nice green color. Any yellow or brown discoloration is not good. When Dhania leaves are cheap, I often buy them in large quantities and wash thoroughly, pat dry on paper towels, chop finely and freeze in small portions in freezer bags. This is not ideal as freezing makes the leaves lose their flavour, but it is better than not having the coriander when you really need it!
When buying Dhania seeds, look for plump seeds that are tan or khaki in colour and round. They should not be soggy, moist or discolored.
How to use Dhania:
In leaf form Dhania or Dhania Patta is ground to a paste to use in chutneys (like Mint-Coriander Chutney) and masala pastes. This gives the dish a signature, fresh green color and a beautiful fragrance!
It is also used as a garnish, either chopped finely or as a whole leaf as in dishes like Green Onion Raita.
In seed form, Dhania is used whole in Tadka (tempering) of a dish or as a starting ingredient in masala pastes. It is also dry roasted, then cooled, then powdered to add to spice pastes or powders like Garam Masala and Sambar Masala.
Other interesting uses for Dhania:
Dhania Patta is rich in Vitamins A, C and K. Dhania seeds are rich in dietary fiber and also in minerals like calcium, iron and magnesium! In Ayurveda, Dhania is used as a digestive and also thought to have aphrodisiacal properties!