Making a batch of fragrant green shiso salt is a wonderful way to preserve my favorite herb for winter! Shiso salt is best used as a finishing salt.
It’s the time of the year, when I get to eat ALL the shiso I want! Shiso is my favorite herb, but it’s really hard to find here in Finland. Right now I get to buy locally grown big green shiso leaves in huge bunches, and I’m using the opportunity to fulfill all my shiso desires!
Perilla frutescens / (var. crispa) is known in English as shiso, perilla, beefsteak plant, wild basil, and perilla mint, and it’s a popular herb especially in different parts of Asia. I’ve grown to know this fragrant herb by its Japanese name shiso, since I’ve mostly eaten this herb in Japanese dishes! Japanese shiso comes in purple and green varieties, as well as flat and ruffled, and each type has its own name and typical use in Japan. But names and varieties aside, what matters is the unique taste of shiso! And: how on earth can I preserve some of it to when fresh shiso is no longer available to me in these quantitites?
Flavor of shiso & how i use it
It’s really hard to try to describe why shiso is so irresistible to me. The flavor is a unique combination of mint, basil, licorice, cloves, peppercorns and currant leaves. If you eat a shiso leaf by itself, the flavor can be almost too overpowering! It’s kind of pungent and sort of astringent, yet sweet, floral, fresh and herbaceous. And combined with other ingredients, shiso transforms simple dishes to sheer magic.
I love to combine shiso with corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and often add it to my summer salads. I’ve used a lot of my treasured shiso also in cocktails! I’ve made shiso shrubs, and blitzed shiso up with gin, dry vermouth, lemon juice and syrup to create a sort of green martini. I add a bunch of shredded shiso on top of hiyayakko and cold noodle soups, and on my watermelon poke bowls. And so so SO many other dishes!
A batch of shiso salt and lovage salt, ready to be dried!
Besides adding shiso to food, I always also preserve some of it. My favorite way to add a subtle shiso flavor to salad dressings is with shiso infused vinegar, but last week I got a genius idea! What if I made some shiso salt? I make huge batches of lovage salt every summer using my friend Hannele’s recipe (in Finnish!). It’s so easy to make: just blitz up fresh herbs with sea salt and leave to dry.
I tend to use grey unrefined sea salt to make my lovage salt, so that’s what I used with shiso too. You can totally dry the herbs separately and combine with salt when dry, but I love to mix the herbs with the salt whilst they’re fresh! The beautiful green hue of the salt and the incredilbe aroma it spreads to your home is enough of a reason, but I also like to imagine that the flavors soak into the salt better this way.
I use lovage salt as an all around seasoning in all kinds of cooking, but shiso salt is best used as a finishing salt. Right now my favorite use for it is with tomato! I start almost all of my days with a few tomato sandwiches, sprinkled with shiso salt. But as soon as I get some time to do more complex cooking too, I’ll definitely try to season rice with shiso salt, or fish, or how about corn with shiso salt? The ideas keep coming so it’s a good thing I’ve made plenty!
- kitchen scale
- 30-40 g green shiso leaves (thick stems removed)
- 70 g unrefined coarse sea salt
- Wash and dry shiso. Remove hard and thick stems. Shred the shiso roughly with scissors.
- Blitz up the shiso and salt to a rough and even mixture. Spread the shiso salt to an even layer on a parchment covered sheet pan and leave to dry.
- The drying time depends on the humidity around your house - at our place it takes no longer than 2 days to dry the shiso salt. I mix the salt up a few times to make sure it dries evenly. If it's very humid where you live, you might want to dry the salt in an oven set to as low as possible (I dry my herbal salt at 40°c).
- Once the salt is dry you can grind it a second time to get a finer result. I like to leave in bigger bits of shiso!
- Store shiso salt in an airtight glass jar.
Are you familiar with shiso and how do you like to use it?