Perfume For Your Palette: Marinated Shiso Leaves

Aren't they so gorgeous? To my great delight and surprise, last spring, I was given red shiso plants for my garden and they are thriving! Shiso are similar to the Korean perilla leaves (often called sesame leaves in Korean markets) I grew up eating. They have a slightly different taste, but a similar lovely minty perfume flavour with hints of anise.

Even if this herb is not familiar to you as a food, you will probably recall seeing green shiso in Japanese restaurants as a leaf decorating your plate or holding your wasabi, while the red-purple leaves are traditionally used in Japanse cooking to color umeboshi and pickled ginger.

We know a bit about antioxidants, right? (If you want to refresh your memory, read my article Eat the Rainbow: Antioxidants to the Rescue!) So we know from shiso's deep reddish-purple hue, that they are packed with anthocyanins, the phytochemical responsible for purple, blue, and red pigments in highly pigmented vegetables and fruit, such as purple cauliflower, blueberries, plums, red grapes, red cabbage, get the idea. In other words, richly hued plant foods means rich in antioxidants that help protect our cells from oxidative stress.

Pretty purple-red or not, I love this herb and would eat it even if it wasn't a superior cell protector! Koreans traditionally eat these or sesame leaves raw or marinated, so I consulted my mother for a vegan recipe to share with you. I like making these as a quick pickle, and because I didn't want the strong flavor of Korean kimchi, instead of Korean chili paste, I added a dash of Japanese shichimi for a dash of spice.

If you're lucky enough to find shiso leaves or even luckier to be able grow them in your garden, this recipe is for you! Don't just use them to decorate your plate!

To your health and happiness! xx, Juli


  • 30 shiso leaves, washed and dried

for the marinade

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
  •  2 tablespoons of pure water
  • 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger root, finely minced
  • dash of shichimi (Japanese 7 flavor chili powder)
  1. Blend all of the ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. In an air tight glass container, layer the shiso leaves, drizzling a little marinade between each leaf. Repeat until finished.
  3. Store in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. They should keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.
  4. Enjoy with rice and other side dishes.