How To Eat and Cook with Shiso Leaves

What is shiso?

Perilla frutescens var. crispa, also called shiso from Japanese シソ is a variety of species Perilla frutescens of the genus Perilla, belonging to the mint family, Lamiaceae. Shiso is a perennial plant that may be cultivated as an annual in temperate climates. The plant occurs in red (purple-leaved) and green-leaved forms. There are also frilly ruffled-leaved forms, called chirimen-jiso, and forms that are red only on top, called katamen-jiso.

This herb was previously known as the “beefsteak plant”, a mostly obsolete name. It is sometimes referred to by its genus name, Perilla, which is ambiguous, as the name also includes the Perilla frutescens, which is a different culinary cultigen. Starting around the 1980s, the rise in popularity of Japanese cuisine has resulted in the mass media more commonly referring to it as shiso.



In Japan, the plant is called shiso (紫蘇/シソ; [ɕiso̞]). In Vietnam, it is called tía tô ([tiɜ˧ˀ˦ to˧˧]). The Japanese name shiso and the Vietnamese tía tô are cognates, each loan words from zǐsū (紫苏/紫蘇), which means Perilla frutescens in Chinese. (Perilla frutescens var. crispa is called huíhuísū (回回苏/回回蘇) in Chinese.) The first character 紫means “purple”, and the second 蘇 means “to be resurrected, revived, rehabilitated”. In Japan, shiso traditionally denoted the purple-red form. In recent years, green is considered typical, and red considered atypical.

Shiso Leaves can be used as a herb for garnish. It is used this way in Vietnam, Japan and Korea.

In Japan, Shiso is used for many purposes:

  • battered and served as tempura;
  • used in pickles such as Umeboshi;
  • the seeds can be used as a garnish;
  • leaves can be wrapped around sushi;
  • dried leaves can be powdered and used as a garnish;
  • oil can be distilled from the dried leaves (the oil is used in Korean cooking);
  • used as a food colouring, because the colour leeches out into other food ingredients;
  • the flower buds can be used as a garnish, Flowering clusters can be fried



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