by Kerri Conan
There are a lot of things we could do with the purple shiso in our herb garden. My husband Sean and I have tried several: like marinate the leaves whole in a sesame-soy concoction, shred a few into salads and stir-fries, and scrunch several into a jar of carrot pickles. Other ideas we have yet to explore: shiso pesto, tempura, or tea.
But we usually enjoy these sturdy leaves plain, to transport food from plate to mouth, as if you were eating with castanets. (Is this how shiso is often used in Japan? I’ve never been, but whenever the leaves are used to garnish my sushi, it never goes to waste.)
Yes, shiso is super-tasty, but not too intense that the flavors overwhelm whatever you’re grabbing with it. Each bite rambles a gamut ranging from mint to cloves, only muted by the thick—and sometimes fuzzy—texture of the leaves. So when you pinch a small mound of sushi-style rice and baton of stir-fried spicy tofu or chicken, it still makes sense to dip the miniature taco in wasabi sauce. Somehow the spectrum expands as you chew, leaving behind a yummy echo long after you swallow. If I sound addicted, I am.