Shiso grows quite well in Western Oregon gardens, even from seed, which is a blessing if you can’t find the starts. My red shiso didn’t do quite as well as the green this year, but I still had enough to make furikake, the dried crumbled herb rice topping so popular in Japan. That is, if I hadn’t managed to trip going down the stairs with the plate of drying red shiso (akajiso), spraining my foot and smashing the lovely vintage Franciscan Eclipse plate and leaves into a thousand smithereens.
Ah well, ya win some, ya lose some.
I love the flavor of shiso, and make various pickles out of the largest fresh green leaves, but I never managed to get enough of the red to do much with it. But if you’re lucky with shiso, try brining and drying it in the Japanese manner.
Last year, I dried red shiso leaves without brining them in rice vinegar first, and they tasted like dried leaves. In other words, don’t omit the brining. The vinegar that one uses to brine the leaves for akajiso furikake is delicious; I used it to make a bright pink turnip pickle after my welcome to fall.
Once you have the dried crumbly leaves, you can add sesame seeds, salt, and/or other bits and crumbles to make the topping even better. Here’s an interesting idea, a furikake with akajiso, turnip greens, and katsuobushi fish flakes. Turnip greens? Why not turnip greens?
Perhaps I will pretend I have some akajiso left and go eat some turnip greens, me and my immobilization boot.
- Several big handfuls of red shiso (akajiso) leaves
- 1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 100 ml rice vinegar (alternately, if you have ume vinegar, use that instead of the rice vinegar/tablespoon of salt)
Rinse the leaves and place in mixing bowl. Massaging and squeezing with your hand, knead one teaspoon of sea salt into the leaves, allowing the salt to draw a sometimes bitter purple liquid from the leaves for about a minute or two. Pour off this liquid and squeeze out leaves as best as you can.
Add the remaining one tablespoon of sea salt to the vinegar and mix well. Add leaves. Let sit for two days in the vinegar in the refrigerator. Dry in sun until crumbly. Grind in mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
Enjoy as a topping on rice, fish, or vegetables.