Welcome to the captivating world of shiso leaf! This aromatic herb is widely used in Japanese cuisine, adding a unique fragrance and flavor to dishes like sushi, salads, tempura, and noodles. Loved by the Japanese, shiso leaf is truly a culinary gem that can transform your cooking. Let’s delve deeper into the mysteries of this amazing herb: discover where to buy it, learn how to grow it in your own yard, explore storage techniques, and uncover creative ways to incorporate it into your recipes.
Unveiling the Mystery: What is Shiso?
Shiso, also known as perilla leaf or beefsteak plant, is the star of Japanese cuisine. Belonging to the mint family, this perennial herb is a staple flavoring in Japanese cooking. With its large jagged leaves, vibrant color, and refreshing flavor, shiso can be enjoyed fresh, pickled, or deep-fried. It is a common ingredient in sushi and sashimi dishes. Fun fact: those strips of fake green grass used to separate items in sushi trays? They mimic shiso leaves! The antibacterial properties of shiso help keep the flavors fresh and prevent spoilage of raw fish and seafood.
Exploring the Varieties
Shiso comes in two main types: green-leafed and red-leafed. Green shiso leaves are more commonly used in Japanese cooking throughout the year, similar to how basil and mint are used in Western cuisine. On the other hand, red shiso leaves are predominantly used for coloring foods such as pickled plums and pickled ginger. In the summer, red shiso leaves are used to make a refreshing beverage called aka shiso juice, known for its appetite-stimulating properties and ability to aid digestion.
The Enigmatic Flavor of Shiso
Shiso boasts a vibrant, herbaceous, and citrusy flavor, with hints of mint, basil, cloves, and cinnamon. Its mildly astringent taste and bitter finish add a unique dimension to dishes. Each bite of shiso leaf promises an unforgettable culinary experience.
Unveiling the Health Benefits
Aside from its culinary uses, shiso is also renowned for its health benefits. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins C, A, and K, shiso helps strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of certain cancers. It is also rich in flavonoids, which support cellular activity and combat free radicals. The antibacterial properties of shiso make it a popular remedy for indigestion and other gastrointestinal conditions.
Where to Find Shiso
Green shiso leaves are readily available in Japanese grocery stores all year round, while red shiso leaves are only available during the summer months. Local farmers’ markets are also a great place to find fresh shiso. For those unable to find it locally, growing shiso in your own garden or planter is an excellent option.
Growing Your Own Shiso
The great news is that shiso is incredibly easy to grow. With the right conditions, it thrives in gardens, planters, and even small spaces like apartments. You can obtain shiso seeds from reputable suppliers like the Japanese seeding company Kitazawa Seed Co. Just remember, if you live near a livestock ranch, be cautious as wild perilla (both shiso and Korean perilla) can be toxic to livestock.
Unleashing the Culinary Potential
Shiso leaves offer endless possibilities in the kitchen. From garnishing and deep-frying to making pesto and using it in sushi, salads, and dipping sauces, this versatile herb adds a refreshing and aromatic touch to any dish. It pairs particularly well with fatty fish like salmon, yellowtail, and tuna, enhancing the flavors of sashimi bowls. If you’re feeling adventurous, shiso leaves can be incorporated into drinks and desserts, such as mojitos, cocktails, ice cream, and sorbets. Dried and ground shiso can also be used as a flavorful seasoning.
Let’s Get Cooking: Delicious Shiso Recipes
- Shiso Pesto: A delightful combination of shiso leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan or Romano cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. This versatile pesto complements pasta, grilled fish or meat, and sandwiches.
- Shiso Pesto Pasta: A fuss-free pasta dish made with homemade shiso pesto.
- Ume Shiso Pasta: Simple ingredients come together to create a flavorful dish.
- Inari Sushi: Decorate your inari sushi with shiso leaves and ikura (salmon roe) for an extra touch of elegance.
- Ume Shiso Rice: Fragrant shiso leaves, pickled plums (umeboshi), and sesame seeds elevate steamed rice into a flavorful delight.
- Salmon Sashimi Bowl: Shiso enhances the flavors of fatty salmon sashimi, making each bite a delight.
- Ginger Pork Rolls with Eggplants: Julienned shiso leaves add zing and color to this pan-fried dish.
- Tsukune (Chicken Meatball Skewers): Chiffonaded shiso leaves bring a burst of flavor to these mouthwatering meatballs.
Embrace the Magic of Shiso!
Shiso leaf is a culinary gem that elevates Japanese cuisine and adds a touch of freshness and vibrancy to any dish. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a culinary explorer, shiso is a must-have herb in your pantry. Unleash your creativity in the kitchen and discover the wonders of this remarkable herb.
To learn more about unique Japanese herbs and spices, explore our article here.
Do you have shiso growing in your garden? Share your favorite ways to use this herb in the comments below!