How to use shiso, Japanese mint/basil/coriander?

Shiso is dubbed Japanese mint because it belongs to the mint family, but flavor-wise, you might want to consider it as Japanese basil or coriander with a hint of mint. It has distinct “biting” smell a little bit like onions or horse radish, with herb-like aroma similar to coriander and peppermint. I would call it bitter/sour basil.

Because it is strong, you would want to use shiso in your meal as a star, not as a supporting actor because it could easily overpower other ingredients. 

If you found them in Asian specialty store, they would be expensive. But that’s okay. Because of its strong flavors, just a couple to several leaves would be enough. (Note: they may not smell strong when they are no longer fresh. How many leaves you need would depend on their freshness, but unfortunately you cannot tell until try them.)

One of the most popular ways to use shiso is sushi. Shiso does a great job of wiping out the fishy-ness you end up feeling when you eat too much fresh seafood. With shiso, you can keep your mouth fresh. Today I made temaki-zushi (roll your own sushi) lunch, using whatever I found in the fridge. No fresh seafood (shrimps are cooked), but it still worked. You can do the same with fresh seafood.

I usually use nori sheets (sold as sushi nori, yaki nori, etc.) that are about the size of 8″x 7″. You’d use them uncut if you are making rolls, but when you do it at home, it’s much easier to just roll whatever you want and eat it as is. So I cut the sheet in half.

Shiso goes well with ingredients relatively mild and subtle, such as chicken or tofu. You can chop them and use them as condiments, or wrap the ingredients with shiso and cook. 

One of the most advanced ways to enjoy shiso (Japanese cuisine 301! Not recommended for beginners) is to enjoy its strong flavors by mixing it with equally strong ingredients. Umeb0shi (dried/pickled plum) and shiso are the common combination. Mix umeboshi paste and chopped shiso, and that’s all it takes. It goes well with rice, or sake.