... might the papalo leaf be the answer for those poor souls who have never been able to experience the zingy shiver of a good sprig of cilantro?
In summer 2013, one particular papalo leaf ('Bolivian coriander' or 'summer coriander' despite not actually being genetically related to coriander) tucked itself coyly away in a sandwich I was about to devour. I was expecting a torta: you know, meat, cheese, avocado, lettuce, some kind of spicy slathering, a bun, copious amounts of grease.
Instead, unbeknownst to me, I was actually holding a cemita.
...a MONSTER cemita. The pounded, fried milanesa, monstrous as it was, amazingly faded into the background, providing only chicharrones-like crunch and a few pepper seeds as support for the teeth-squeakingly fresh cubes of queso fresco, the verdant fatty avocado, the zing of the papalo leaves, and the slow burn of the adobo sauce on top of it all.
But an unexpected guest at a party always earns an extra once-over, and I did a double take, peeking under the pillowy egg-bread to see what that surprise zing was. Cilantro? Fish-mint? Saw-leaf herb? My at-the-time-primarily-phở-based herb expertise was at a loss. I poked and prodded the clover-shaped herb, ripping off bits to taste and holding it up to the light, examining its plant-veins.
Giving up, I asked the cashier after I was done: "Papalo!" she exclaimed, smiling brightly. "It's seasonal!"
Seasonal? In today's frantic global scramble, with cargo airborne everywhere and instant culinary gratification?
What a treat! Something to look forward to every summer!
Where to get papalo in Orange/LA county:
The place that served it to me is called La Cemita Poblana and it's in Santa Ana. A cute little cottage with outdoor-only seating, cheerful service, and aguas frescas served in small-bucket and large-bucket sizes only, dinner for two won't run more than $20 (and probably much less).
Otherwise, if you're more of a kitchen-adventurer than a restaurant-adventurer, I hear it's available in the produce section of Mexican markets.