Shadow beni is a leafy herb native to the West Indies and Central America. It is widely used in the cuisine of these regions, and it also appears in Asian foods. This herb can sometimes be difficult to obtain outside these regions; sometimes specialty stores will stock it frozen or in cans. If shadow beni is not available, cilantro can be used as a replacement.
This herb has a multitude of alternate names, which adds to the confusion for many cooks. Formally, shadow beni is known as Eryngium foetidum, but it is also known by bhandhanya, fitweed, long coriander, false cilantro, culantro, recao, shado beni, sawtooth, spiritweed, ngo gai, ketumbar java, Mexican coriander, donnia, and spiritweed, among many other names. This profusion of alternate titles is especially frustrating for cooks who try to work with ethnic recipes, as many people are unaware of alternate names for the herb.
As the name “culantro” suggests, shadow beni tastes very much like cilantro, with a somewhat stronger and more lingering flavor. This flavor is often utilized in marinades and sauces, and the herb is also used as a garnish and to dress various foods. The distinctive pungency is especially popular in Trinidad, where shadow beni is used in traditional salsas and dressings, along with hot sauces.
As is the case with cilantro, shadow beni is not to everyone’s taste. The flavor tastes strange to some people, while others find it very enjoyable. As the scientific name indicates, shadow beni can taste almost fetid at times, especially when paired with poor choices of seasoning and spices. However, the flavor is also quite unique, and some foods simply wouldn’t taste the same without shadow beni or cilantro, as people who have attempted to omit these herbs have noticed.
In the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, shadow benny is often readily available at produce markets, because it is a commonly used ingredient. Outside of these areas, the herb can be challenging to find, as it is a bit obscure. In regions with an ethnic community, shadow benny can sometimes be obtained at regional grocers, or especially larger markets which cater to the minority community. People can also grow shadow benny at home from seeds or starts; its growth habit is much like that of cilantro, so care is advised in especially warm climates, where the herb may bolt to seed.
Side Note: Seems shado beni isalso spelled as “shadow Benny”, “Shado Benny” and “Shado Benni”
On our last vacation to Trinidad and Tobago for carnival 2009, my sister had made reservations at the Hyatt Regency for our group to have breakfast. After all the amazing food we’ve been enjoying thus far on our trip, this day was going to be my BEST culinary experience on the island yet. Eddie my sister’s friend from Switzerland had spoiled us the past 4 days with amazing home-made dinners. Some of the best sauces I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Plus the street food we devoured every night after partying, were divine.
Back to the breakfast at the Hyatt… BTW if you’re ever in Port Of Spain, be sure to have breakfast here. Not only is the food and service tops, nothing beats dining steps away from the ocean. While on my prowl at the buffet I noticed a green sauce sitting all lonely in a corner of the “meat” section. Long story short.. it turned out to be a “shado beni” hot sauce that the chef made fresh on a daily basis. Yea, I even got our waiter to sneak me some to take home in a little disposable cappuccino cup. It was that good. That little green sauce that was so full of flavor and punch, added a new momentousness to plain scrambled eggs and sausage.
Here’s my version of this amazing Shado Beni hot sauce.
1 bunch of shado beni (subsitute 1 bunch of cilantro)
1 hot pepper (or as many as you can handle)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of water.
3 cloves of garlic
Don’t be fooled by how simple this recipe is… it’s GUARANTEED to excite your taste buds.
Remove the skin from the garlic, slice and place in food processor. Cut and squeeze the lime juice in the processor, then add the salt, water and hot pepper. Now wash and rough cut the shado beni (or cilantro) and … place in food processor.
Final step is to puree the entire lot for about 3-4 minutes, stopping to push the ingredients down so everything gets worked.
That’s it, you’re done! Be sure to check for salt and heat level. If it’s not hot enough for you, simply add more peppers as necessary. STORAGE – Use fresh or place in a container in the refrigerator.
USE? Anywhere you usually use hot sauce on. Grilled meats, chicken wings, as a side on dishes, on your eggs in the morning (yum).. be creative!