How to Use the Shiso Plant this Season
Chef Celine Beitchman utilizes another popular plant from our hydroponic garden.
Shiso, also known as perilla, is a green or red annual plant with tender leaves that is used in Asian and South American kitchens. Though related to the mint family, its flavor tends towards earthy, herbaceous and sometimes tangy, with a savory mouthfeel – mildly sweet and satisfying.
Both an herb and a leafy green, shiso is a therapeutic food in ancient systems like Traditional Chinese Medicine. Some recent research suggests the plant may be helpful in reducing histamine overreactions and allergic symptoms related to hay fever.
Shiso is extremely versatile.
Raw leaves are delicious tossed into salads or used wherever you might add savory green herbs. Or you can cook them up like tender spinach – steamed, sautéed or tempura-fried. Red varieties can be steeped in hot water and juiced, yielding a ruby herbal concoction with a lemony bite. This pronounced color and sourness, from anthocyanins, and oxalic and ascorbic acid (commonly known as vitamin C), is responsible for the pink-hued glow and pucker of fermented Japanese umeboshi plums.
Fresh shiso can be purchased online, at farmers markets, and in the produce aisle of gourmet- and health-food stores.
For today’s recipe, I harvested two pounds of the red plant from our on-site hydroponic farm. After plucking leaves from hardy stems, I packed everything loosely in plastic Ziplocs and kept them refrigerated overnight. The next day I chose a few similar-sized leaves for tempura frying and a handful for mincing into porridge. The rest went into making shiso juice for staining eggs and using as an herbal tea base.
I love highlighting recipes from our Health-Supportive Culinary Arts curriculum that can be easily replicated in your home. This one-pot rice porridge, called congee, hails from our Food and Immunity class. While traditional congee recipes use all white rice, we include whole grains for fiber, vitamins and flavor.
In Health-Supportive Culinary Arts, we take a seasonal approach to cooking which means using what is available locally and paying attention to tastes, cravings and weather. Tasked with using up our farm’s harvest, I wanted a dish that utilized a lot of it and spoke to the cusp of season-change, something at once comforting and renewing. I wanted a warming dish for the last cold days of a long winter, with colorful and bright signals of spring.
Because congee is both an everyday dish and a celebration-worthy one, I included both styles for the home cook. A simple version is a one-pot meal (soak the grains together and cook everything up in your Instant Pot). Once the porridge is cooked, feel free to add any ingredients that you like or have on hand.
All of the garnishes below are to-taste and occasion; most can be made in advance and warmed or cut before serving. Crispy tempura provides a complement to smooth creamy grains. Stovetop braised carrots of any color bring sweetness, and adding in hard-cooked eggs or tempeh ups the protein content and gives the porridge a meaty chew. Once you get the hang of it, make a double batch and keep this in your recipe rotation. Any leftovers heat up quickly with a small amount of water in a clean pot.
Shiso Congee with Garnishes
Yields 4-5 two-cup servings
- 4-5 cups water
- 1/2 cup white basmati rice, soaked overnight
- 3 tablespoons long-grain brown rice, soaked overnight
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 ounces burdock root, medium dice
- 1/4 ounce ginger, minced
- 1/4 pound onion, small dice
- 2 scallions, trimmed, bias cut
- 1/2 ounce shiso, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon tamari
- 2 sheets Nori, charred over an open flame 30 seconds
- Gomasio (1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds crushed with 1 teaspoon sea salt)
- Shiso-stained quail eggs (see recipe below)
- Tempura shiso (see recipe below)
- Braised baby carrot (see recipe below)
- Tempeh crumbles (see recipe below)
- In a 1-gallon pot, combine four cups of water, rice and salt. Bring to boil for 3 minutes. Add burdock, ginger and onion. Lower flame, cover and allow to simmer, stirring frequently, until rice is creamy and lightly thickened, adding more water as needed to reach desired consistency (1 to 1 1/2 hours).
- Off heat, stir in scallions, shiso, sesame oil and tamari. Ladle into bowls, top with torn charred nori, and add other garnishes to taste.
Shiso-Stained Quail Eggs
Yields 4-5 servings
- 1 pound red shiso, stemmed
- 5 cups water, divided
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 10 quail eggs
- Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a large pot and add shiso leaves. Turn down heat and cook leaves for 2 minutes until they change color from red to green.
- Drain leaves and squeeze to extract as much red shiso juice as you can, and then add vinegar. Cool completely in an ice bath.
- While juice cools, bring remaining water to boil in a 1-quart pot. Turn water to simmer and gently place eggs in pot. Cook for 3 minutes and immediately submerge in an ice bath to cool completely.
- When cool, peel eggs and steep in shiso juice to cover for 1-2 hours until stained. Note: Use leftover juice in place of water in the braised carrot or tempura recipe, in an Arnold Palmer-style lemonade with green tea or in your favorite mocktail.
Yields 10 leaves
- 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 tablespoon arrowroot
- 1/2-1 cup seltzer or shiso juice
- 10 assorted shiso leaves (red and green), washed and dried well
- 2 cups neutral oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Heat oil to 350 F in a shallow frying pan.
- Mix pastry flour and arrowroot. Whisk in seltzer to consistency of pancake batter.
- Dredge leaves in batter and deep fry one or two at a time.
- Drain on paper towels, toss with sea salt, and serve.
Braised Baby Carrot
Yields 4-5 servings
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 4 baby carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch lengthwise pieces
- 1 cup shiso juice or water
- 1/2 teaspoon tamari
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger juice
- Heat oil in 6-inch saute pan, add carrots and gently saute 2-3 minutes per side.
- Cover carrots with 1/2-inch water and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, covered until carrots are tender and still intact and most of the water has been absorbed.
- Add tamari and cook 2 minutes more uncovered until dry. Add ginger juice and serve.
Yields 1/2 cup crumbles
- 4 ounces tempeh, steamed 10 minutes, cooled, crumbled or grated
- 1 teaspoon neutral oil
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- 1 teaspoon brown rice syrup
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon umeboshi paste
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Toss tempeh with remaining ingredients. Place on parchment-lined half sheet pan.
- Bake for 20 minutes, tossing from time to time to ensure all tempeh crisps.