Our recent trip to Sakagura in NYC sparked my interest in perilla (or, as Japanese call it, shiso) leaves. It is a very aromatic (and I am a sucker for aromatics :-)) jagged-edged plant from the basil and mint family widely used in Japanese savory dishes as an ingredient or garnish:
At Sakagura we tried it in several variations: as a counterpoint to fluke carpaccio, alongside with salmon roe and plum paste, with silken homemade tofu sashimi, alongside ponzu sauce; all fabulous.
Naturally, I was inspired to experiment on my own, and shiso leaves were added to our shopping list at Hana, a unique Japanese grocery store on U Street in Washington, DC. They have a nice selection of fresh Japanese vegetables from local farms, as well as from a Japanese vegetable farm near L.A. (flown in every Thursday).
To keep things simple, I decided to pair my shiso leaves with sliced adorable baby cucumbers that we had picked up at a farmer’s market the day before, and briefly pickled in rice vinegar, salt, sugar, and minced fresh ginger:
Result: a crisp, mouthwatering palate cleanser!