10.20.10 Shiso Creative

Shiso 1 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
I'm crazy about shiso and was thrilled that we were able to grow several plants in our garden this summer. Turns out they like a spot that is a bit shadier, neither wet nor dry. We had to rescue armloads of the stuff before the first frost as it immediately and tragically goes black and limp. But then there I was with tons of shiso and only a few ideas as to how to use it. I've always enjoyed the crystallized shiso leaves, coated in a brittle crust of sugar, that are part of the dessert plate at Matsuri, but I couldn't really see making them at home. And I do like the pickled umeboshi-plum-and-shiso roll that is on every classic sushi menu, but that would use up just a few leaves at most. I did go ahead and make a simple syrup infused with the smaller quantity of red shiso I had—great for cocktails and to mix with soda water—but that still left me with vast quantities of the green. A quick scan of the web revealed virtually no inspiration, aside from an edamame salad enlivened with chopped shiso. So I put on my special Glutton's Thinking Cap (looks something like this, or perhaps this), gazed deep into the vast recesses of the fridge, and came up with a rather inventive way to use large handfuls of deliciously pungent, minty shiso.
Shiso 2 790 xxx
i find the red and green basically interchangeable but some say the red is sharper
I knew that lurking in the back of my "noodle cupboard" (wherein reside various types of rice, pasta, polenta and assorted grains) were a couple of packages of pure buckwheat soba noodles. If you ever read the ingredients on the package, you will notice that these are hard to come by as most contain some wheat flour as well. Anyway, I was thinking that these rich, nutty noodles would be the perfect match for what was about to become SHISO PESTO!
Shiso pesto 790 xxx
voluptuously green shiso pesto
What better way to preserve the flavor and color of a fresh herb? With a classic basil pesto as my model, I assembled some ingredients that I thought would play up its subtle yet distinctive tang: blanched almonds, lemon juice and, my secret weapon, yuzu kosho. This condiment, which I've seen referred to as Japanese crack, is a textured paste made from a brilliantly complex citrus fruit—yuzu—chile and salt. It comes in green or yellow, depending on the color of the fruit. Thinking that raw garlic would be too overpowering for the shiso, I came up with using this to add a bit of a kick to the pesto.
Yuzu kosho 790 xxx
yuzu kosho has bright green notes of citrus and chile
Rather than olive oil to bind the pesto, I used organic extra-virgin sesame oil. It's not toasted, so it has a very unobtrusive sesame flavor. (You could substitute any mild vegetable oil; remember to try and get expeller pressed.)
Shiso soba 790 xxx
these noodles make a perfect light lunch, tasty snack or side dish
I ended up serving these to G for our anniversary dinner (3 years!) alongside some miso-marinated grilled kalbi and a light cucumber salad. Not a thing wrong with that meal. I could see adding some of this pesto to mayonnaise, or stirring it into steamed green beans (or kohlrabi, which is how I had it for lunch the next day). It's spicy and herbal and altogether divine.SHISO PESTOsomewhat less than 2 cups3/4 cup blanched almonds2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice1/2 teaspoon sea salt2 generous teaspoons yuzu kosho3 packed cups stemmed shiso leaves2/3 cup sesame oil (not toasted)In your food processor, combine all the ingredients except the oil and pulse 5 or 6 times. Then add the oil in a thin stream until it creates the texture you're looking for: not too chunky, not too smooth, thinner than peanut butter but not too loose. Taste and add more yuzo kosho or salt as needed. Store in a jar in fridge topped off with a glug of oil.


One of my favorite things at Omen, in soho, is their 'shiso rice'. So simple but the kind of small gesture that makes a huge difference. All they do in chiffonade some shiso and fold it into perfectly cooked white rice while its hot, releasing the aromatic oils. Makes a perfect side to a simple protein, although I have been known to make it the focal point of my meal.
allison williams on October 20, 2010 at 5:16 pm —
You're so right--I've had that dish at Omen! Since posting this, I also remembered this recipe for bacon-&-shiso fried rice. Now I'll just have to stir some of my pesto into my next batch of fragrant short-grain rice.
laura on October 20, 2010 at 5:24 pm —
was JUST going to post about the bacon and shiso fried rice! Shiso comes from the sesame plant, no?
Lisa on October 20, 2010 at 6:23 pm —
As far as I can tell, shiso—also known as perilla—is a genus of annual herb that is a member of the mint family, Lamiacae. It is also widely known as the beefsteak plant, and sometimes as purple mint, Japanese basil, or wild coleus. There appears to be another type of shiso, known as egoma in Japan, or deulkkae or tŭlkkae in Korea (meaning “wild sesame”), though most sources (but not all) say it bears no close relation to sesame. The leaf is larger, rounder and flatter and the flavor is somewhat distinct. The seeds are crushed to make oil which has a rich taste and scent that resembles dark sesame oil. Some sources say this type is related to sesame, some say it is not, so this is very frustrating.
laura on October 21, 2010 at 4:02 am —
My favorite - wrap a dollop of brown rice with a dab of Korean red chili paste or miso. I'm definitely going to try that pesto!
Mirena on October 22, 2010 at 1:56 pm —
Something we would always do is wrap pieces of steak in raw shiso to eat. I think Korean Bulgogi would work too. :) This is a great idea for pesto! I made shiso pesto before, but I had used pine nuts and cheese (as is used in traditional basil pesto) and the flavors are too strong for the delicate shiso taste. Thanks for the idea to use yuzu kosho and sesame oil. I will try that next time when I have a new batch of shiso ready to harvest (isn't it amazing this herb can be hard to find and expensive when found? It grows like a weed if you plant it in the ground!).
Ting Chen on November 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm —
Ting, so glad you liked the recipe! I agree with you that the classic additions of cheese and pine nuts are a bit too overpowering for the shiso.
laura on November 7, 2012 at 9:53 am —
This is just the recipe I need! Does it freeze well like basil pesto?
Sarah on September 4, 2013 at 5:10 pm —
Hey, Sarah. I have never frozen this pesto so not quite sure, though I will say that shiso's flavor tends to be much less hardy than that of other herbs. I am always stumped as to how best to preserve it. I infuse it into a simple syrup--great for cocktails--and also make a finishing salt that is very nice. (Sorry this recipe is not formatted, it belongs to an older version of the blog!)
laura on September 4, 2013 at 7:10 pm —