shiso is an amazing herb, also known as perilla leaf, that my husband and i discovered through our love of korean food. it is a beautiful, heart-shaped leaf with an excellent flavor that is unfortunately difficult to describe! shiso is related to mint, so it has a similar taste, but with a hint of spiciness and tanginess that lends itself so well to all types of asian cooking. at do hwa, one of our favorite korean restaurants, shiso leaf is often provided as a wrapper for korean barbeque. it can also be found in a delicious zucchini, perilla leaf, and chili pepper scallion pancake. at another of our favorite restaurants, en japanese brasserie, shiso leaf is featured in a decadent garlic shiso fried rice. we became immediate fans after ordering this dish the first time.
last summer we were inspired to try growing some shiso of our own. it started out small, and we figured it wasn’t meant the rocky vermont soil, but then in mid-august it started flourishing. the abundant stems with large, deep green leaves inspired us to try our hand at imitating en’s dish, even though we didn’t have a recipe. this summer shiso was a must-have in our garden. and while we still haven’t mastered the full flavor and rich umami that en japanese brasserie achieves, the dish we came up with is delicious and satistfying. we also took the liberty of adding 2 vegetable sides to make a full meal out of the fried rice. add a nice carafe of sake and you will be on your way to a very zen evening of healthy and satisfying food.
shiso garlic fried rice
2 cups brown rice
1 4″ piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 head garlic, minced
3 cups shiso leaves (about 2 cups roughly chopped)
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 large heads of bok choy, roughly chopped
1 lb shitake mushrooms, thickly sliced
1. put rice and 3 1/2 cups water in a medium pot, bring to a boil, stir once, then cover and reduce to a simmer. cook until rice is done and all the water is gone, about 30-40 minutes. set aside.
2. heat 1/4 cup canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. add the sliced shitakes and cook, stirring infrequently, until the mushrooms are soft and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. add 1/8 cup sesame oil and 1/8 cup soy sauce to deglaze the pan and let simmer for 5 minutes. then remove from the heat and set aside.
3. heat another 1/4 cup canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. add the chopped bok choy and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are wilted and the stems are cooked through, about 15 minutes. add 1/8 cup sesame oil and 1/8 cup soy sauce to deglaze the pan and let simmer for 5 minutes. then remove from the heat and set aside.
4. heat the remaining 1/4 cup canola oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. add the garlic and the ginger and stir frequently until soft, about 8 minutes. add the shiso leaf and cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes. add the rice and stir until heated through.
5. serve the bok choy and mushrooms on top of the shiso garlic fried rice, seasoning with the remaining sesame oil and soy sauce to taste.
note: if you want to get creative, here are some optional additions. for those of you that enjoy a little more heat, garnish with a dash of spicy sesame oil! if you are craving protein, add some cubed tofu (or the cooked protein of your choice) to the bok choy at the same time as you deglaze the pan. and maybe sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top of the finished dish for a little extra texture and flavor. have fun and enjoy!
deglaze: to use liquid to remove browned bits of food from the bottom of a pan, which adds flavor to and thickens pan sauces.