I am learning about Japanese cooking, and I quickly realized that shiso leaves were really essential to producing authentic versions of many Japanese dishes. Evidently it is also essential in Korean, Vietnamese, and Indonesian cuisine as well.
I am at a disadvantage where I live in central NJ. Many ingredients that are in every grocery store in parts of California or Hawaii are very hard to find here. We have asian supermarkets but “Asian” here generally means Chinese or Korean.
I have learned that there is a Korean “perilla” which they call kkaenip or “sesame leaves” that is quite close to the Japanese version but about half as flavorful. I can buy that locally in a Korean grocery, and it more or less fills the bill. That store also sells “shungiku” or chrysanthemum leaves, fresh ginseng, a kind of asian parsley, and other Japanese basics.
Anyway I have planted green shiso (Aoshiso) and red shiso (Akashiso) and am anxiously tending my seedlings. I just wonder if others have had any sort of parallel experiences? Here are a couple of my babies in the nursery, with a quarter as “fertilizer”:
We are fortunate to be able to find shiso leaves at TaLin Market in Albuquerque most of the year. In SoCal we hardly ever saw shiso in markets, but we regularly had shiso at our favorite sushi bar, Kiku Sui in Redondo Beach and Torrance CA. Now when I get sashimi-grade fish from Flannery or Catalina Seafood, I get shiso and sometimes fresh wasabi from TaLin.
just bought a shiso plant at my neighboring japanese market. I’ve seen then in San Diego as well as LA. Just rows of plants sitting at the entrance. I’m not sure what i’m going to do with it, but that’s what google is for!
the intensity of the flavor has always been a turnoff for me with sushi, I understand their reasoning for it, but I’m also the kind of person who doesn’t eat ginger with their sushi no matter how fresh it is.
I’m trying to figure out some good recipes to use it in some sort of cooked dish since I’m hoping that will lower the strength of the flavor… kinda like Thai Basil.
We bought some seeds in the supermarket a couple of weeks ago but haven’t got around to planting them yet. My wife tends to buy shiso all the time - but generally only needs a few leaves so planting our own will be great (if I get round to it!)
I always reach for the shiso at sushi restaurants, though your comment about its strength relative to the fish it wraps is well-noted. I wouldn’t let it get in the way of yellowtail, but it can nicely cut mackerel or salmon. The caprese idea is inspired, and I will put it to good use.
One of the few good things about living in Fresno when I was in school was the plethora of ethnics markets there. I have been cooking Japanese for several years now, but it was only after moving there that I was able to readily get some of the more obscure ingredients I needed. Alas, now I am in Paso, another cultural desert.
Get those seeds in dirt ASAP. They are agonizingly slow to germinate. My green shiso took more than 4 weeks and the red shiso took closer to 2 months. I can buy “real” Japanese shiso up in Edgewater NJ at Mitsuwa, which is about an hour each way (including traffic etc). But they sell something like six leaves for $4.00, so growing it is an obvious choice. The Korean alternative is very attractive to me since I can buy it in a store 3 miles away and I get maybe 15 leaves for $1.50.
I’m beginning to think I should just buy a Korean cookbook and go with the flow here. The part of Edison where I shop at the Korean market has several stores and restaurants where they don’t even bother writing the signs in English, it’s all written in Korean. There is one guy there who knows some of the names in Japanese, so for example I could ask for “unagi” (he didn’t understand “eel”) and be led to the freezer case where they had some frozen eel (sushi ready) which was delicious. My latest realization is that they have chrysanthemum leaves or shungiku there. You use those in soup. The flowers are used for tea.
My red and green shiso plants are about the same size as Frank’s - grown from seed. I’m hoping to use it in some garlic beef sushi rolls as I really like the flavor. It is also an experiment to see if they would grow. Mysteriously the green shiso is growing a lot slower than the red and took much more time to germinate.