Shiso season has just started. It is by far my favourite Japanese herb. I use shiso for garnishing Donburi Japanese bowl dishes, Chilled Tofu, Tempura, served with sashimi, sushi rolls and more. You can even make a syrup from it and at the end of this post, I share an authentic recipe for it.
What is Shiso?
Shiso is a variety of Perilla frutescens, commonly called perilla in the mint family. Its botanical name is Perilla frutescens var. crispa and is different from the Korean Perilla leaves. They look similar but taste different. Shiso leaf is shaped like a spade with a serrated edge, whereas Korean perilla also known as sesame leaves is more flatter and have a less serrated edge.
There are two varieties; green shiso and red/purple variety.
- Green Shiso – is also called “Ao(blue/green)jiso” or “ōba” in Japanese. It is a popular herb in Japan and available for purchase from supermarkets all year round though the season is May to August in Japan.
- Red/Purple Shiso – is also known as “Aka(red)Jiso“. As opposed to Green Shiso, Akajiso is not available all year round but it is available between June and July. It has more of an astringent taste than Green shiso and so not suitable to eat fresh.
How to Choose & Store
If your local Asian/Japanese grocery store stocks green perilla, pick the ones not shriveled and with no black spots. When it lose its freshness, the black spots appear on the leaves. Green perilla leaves are spoilt easily, and become black coloured if it’s left in water. Use them as soon as possible or leave the stem part only to soak in water and keep them uplight.
Culinary uses of green and red shiso are different. Green Shiso is used as a fresh herb because of its refreshing flavour and aroma. On the other hand red /purple leaf is used as a natural coloring agent.
- Green Shiso – Because of its’ anti-bacterial property, you may have seen it is often used to garnish Sashimi and also as an divider in Bento Box Lunch. It is also used for Chilled Tofu, Mentai Moyo Yaki Onigiri, Yaki Onigiri, Tempura, Miso KatsuDon, Futomaki Sushi filling and can not have Temaki Zushi without Shiso Leaf.
- Red/Purple Shiso – Mainly used for adding colour to Umeboshi and dried red/purple shiso after it is used in pickling umeboshi, is known as a rice seasoning called “Yukari”. Also, the Japanese make a summer drink Shiso Juice with this herb. The recipe is included at the end of this post.
What Does Shiso Taste Like?
The green perilla leaves flavor is a cross between mint and cinnamon with a hint of cloves. The Red/Purple leaves have a more astringent taste than Green perilla leaves. Both have a distinctive subtle aroma.
How to Grow Shiso?
Although many Japanese foods are becoming more well known across the globe, some of the Japanese ingredients are still difficult to obtain. That is the reason I discussed some Japanese food substitution in the previous post. Perilla leaves are one of them, however it is very easy to grow.
Sow Seeds in from April to May.
- Soak seeds
Soak seeds in water the day before.
- Sow seeds
Sow seeds in seedling pots and moisten the soil.
- Water the pots
Give water without covering the seed with soil.
- Germinates in about 10 days
Leave the pots in the sun, keep moistening the pots to avoid them from drying out.
- Thin out
When 2-3 leaves grow, thin them out except for healthy buds.
- Transfer them to ground
When the plant height becomes about 4 inch (10cm) with 4-6 leaves, transfer to plant to the ground where they get half sun through the day.
- Prune the top growth
When it grows about 6 inch (15 cm) tall, prune the top which encourages the plant to become bushy.
Shiso Juice is a Japanese popular summer drink. This is because of its super pretty vivid pink colour and refreshing taste. It is said that Shiso juice is good for those who are dieting. The rosmarinic acid contained in Shiso suppresses the digestion and absorption of sugar and fat. Also, it is believed that it prevents the rise of blood sugar. However, the syrup contains sugar so drinking too much is not a good idea. Japanese only drink this occasionally and only one small glass a day.
If you liked the post or made the Shiso Juice and if you liked it, please leave comments below and rate the recipe.
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- 18 oz Red/Purple Shiso leaves * 1 or 500g
- 2 cups water *2 or 500ml
- 1/2 cup sugar *3 or 100g
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar *4 or 60ml
- Prepare shiso leaves to boil. Wash and trim the shiso leaves.
- Bring the 2 cups of water to boil in a large sauce pan and add the prepared shiso leaves.
- Turn the heat down to medium heat and cook the shiso leaves for about a few minutes. The leaves colour will change from purple to a greenish colour.
- Drain the shiso leaves with a strainer and squeeze the leaves to extract as much as you can. It is hot so be careful not to burn your fingers. I used a spoon to extract all liquid.
- Place the drained liquid back to the saucepan and bring it simmer.
- Add the sugar, and when the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat off and add the apple cider vinegar.
- Cool it down and keep it in a clean bottle in a fridge. If you sterilize the container in which you keep the syrup, it will last about 6 months in the fridge.
- To make shiso juice, place 1/4 cup of the syrup into a glass and pour about 200 ml of mineral water or fizzy soda water over the top. Add ice cubes.
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