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Shiso - The Asian Nettle

Have you ever been to a sushi bar or any other Japanese restaurant? Then you definitely would have seen Shiso leaves which are also known as Perilla, the big green leaves used mainly for plating to add contrast to the food being presented to you.

While there is only one species in the genus, there are three varieties. There are two major forms of cultivated Perilla, green and red. Perilla leaves are native to the mountainous regions of Asia. Today you can find them in Korea, India, China, and Japan as well as some parts of USA.

Perilla has been used for thousands of years in many ways. Its leaves have the most culinary uses, the seed oil, while edible in small doses, is used mainly for lamps as it has a chemical that is potentially toxic to the lungs; the stems have also been used medicinally for centuries. The first documented use of them is found in a medicinal formula dating back to the Song Dynasty in 1110 A.D.

Perilla leaves have a pleasant aromatic and herbaceous aroma with a hint of mint, basil, and anise. The leaves are used fresh, fried, in soups, salads, and many other uses.

As a bartender, I have decided to showcase perilla leaves in a simple daiquiri recipe to add a little bit of the herbaceous and spicy finish to a well-known refreshing cocktail.

Shiso Daiquiri

45 ml light young rum (old Cuban style) 15 ml freshly squeezed lime juice 10 ml yuzu juice 15 ml perilla sugar syrup* 30 ml strawberry puree

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender, add several ice cubes and blend together.

2. Once blended into a nice frozen texture pour the drink into your daiquiri/martini glass and garnish with a fresh strawberry and green shiso leaf.

*Perilla sugar syrup 1. Cook sugar syrup using the ratio 1:1.

2. Once the sugar is dissolved add red or green shiso leaves and let it macerate for 30 min.

3. Occasionally stir.

4. Strain once it has released its colour and flavour, based on which shiso you use.

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