With the growing global appeal of Japanese cuisine, more and more of the country's key components are becoming familiar to people worldwide.

Unless you grew up in Japan or Korea, where it's widely accessible, you've probably had shiso leaf (perilla) as a sushi garnish. If you came across perilla through Japanese cuisine, you might have seen it on top of cold tofu, on noodles, or in combination with pickled plum inside a rice ball or sushi roll. It's an acquired taste, but as those who have fallen in love with this aromatic mint family plant know, it's just a matter of time until you start hunting for shiso in your local supermarket. Some individuals even go so far as to purchase the seeds and grow them in their backyard.

What is shiso?

The attractive green (or, less usually, red-purple) leaves are in the mint family. Japanese cooking frequently uses them to offer a refreshing garnish for fish, rice, tempura, soup, and vegetable dishes. According to Ralph Scamardella, corporate executive chef and partner at Tao Group, which manages more than 20 restaurants globally, the plant "has a fragrance evocative of cinnamon and cloves." According to Scamardella, the leaves are also frequently utilized in Vietnam and Korea. "It provides the background for many sushi dishes and pairs well with wasabi and shoyu," he adds.

According to Kaz Iimori, senior chef of Blue Ribbon Sushi in New York City, it's most general application is as a bed for wasabi on sashimi platters. "It is known for its antibacterial qualities," he says. "In Japan, we eat it by mixing it into pickles, salad, or noodles. It's very refreshing."

How is shiso in Japanese food?

Shiso leaves are more than simply a divider or a tasty garnish; they are frequently used as a component in sushi. The herb complements fatty fish such as salmon, yellowtail, and tuna and may be savored by wrapping a whole leaf over a piece of sashimi and dipping it in soy sauce.

Shiso goes well with veggies and fruits. Shiso leaves, julienned, are frequently added to salads to offer a fresh, lemony flavor. In addition, shiso leaves are occasionally tempura-styled by dipping them in a light batter and frying them until crispy and puffy. 

Shiso is also a common component in beverages and sweets, such as granita, mojito cocktails, and simple syrup preparation. Like dried nori, it is dried and crushed, used as a flavoring, and sprinkled on rice, omelets, and soups.

Shiso leaves are traditionally used to wrap the famous snack shiso maki, in which shiso leaves are wrapped around a mixture of sweetened miso paste and other ingredients like eggplant and toasted crushed walnuts then skewered and fried until crispy.


Source: Food Republic, Japan Today, and The Spruce Eats

Image:  iStock, Ever in Transit, 

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