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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 also 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 in 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 Immune 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.
Yields 4-5 two-cup servings
Shiso-Stained Quail Eggs
Yields 4-5 servings
Braised Baby Carrot
Yields 4-5 servings
Yields 1/2 cup crumbles
This content was originally published here.