This week we take a culinary trip to Japan thanks to the exotic, gorgeous, and fragrant red shiso that has arrived in my CSA box. You may not be familiar with this herb, but if you’ve eaten sushi, you’ve probably seen it before. It’s the pointy green or red leaf on which you’ll often find sushi or sashimi sitting atop. Chances are, you didn’t even know that it was edible! Oh but it is. And it is wildly popular in Japan. When I think of shiso, or perilla as it’s also known, I think of pickling. That’s what the Japanese like to do with this herbaceous leaf. Ever wonder how real pink pickled ginger gets its color? That’s right, red shiso leaves. (At least, that’s the way its done when it’s not processed in a big factory.)
This lovely salad of roasted shrimp and pickled cucumbers tossed with a quintessential Japanese soy-mirin-rice wine vinegar dressing is lovely with or without the shiso. So please don’t skip it if you can’t get your hands on some. But if you can, I promise you that this citrusy, anise flavored herb will add so much depth to the flavor of the salad. It sort of surprised me how much better it made the dish.
When I served this salad, I served it as a main course lunch and it was plenty filling. But I also think it would be nice to pair it with a collection of cold plates on a hot summer evening. I’m thinking cold sesame noodles, tuna tartare on crispy wontons, and green tea ice cream to finish. The way I look at it, if you can’t make the trip to Japan, you can always send your senses there instead.
Serves 4/Makes 1/4 cup Dressing
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 Kirby or Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced into rounds*
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3/4 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp (about 30)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt to taste
Spray cooking oil
1 tablespoon finely sliced red or green shiso leaf
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups mixed greens
1/4 cup finely sliced red or green shiso leaf
2 scallions, dark green parts only, finely sliced
Sesame seeds and togarashi (Japanese chili pepper) to garnish (optional)
- Pickle the cucumbers: In a small bowl, combine the salt and sugar. Place the cucumbers in a medium bowl and sprinkle over the salt and sugar and toss to combine and coat. Pour over the vinegar and toss to combine. Let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how thinly you’ve sliced the cucumbers and how pickled you prefer them.
- Roast the shrimp: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°F. Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with the ginger and salt to taste and toss to combine and coat. Spray the shrimp with cooking oil. Roast for 5 minutes, until just cooked through. Remove from the oven, place in a medium bowl and toss with the 1 tablespoon sliced shiso leaf.
- Make the dressing: In a jar, combine all the dressing ingredients and shake well to combine. Shake well again just before pouring over the salad and shrimp.
- Assemble the salad: Place the cucumbers in a colander in the sink, run water over them to rinse off the excess salt and sugar.
- Pour 1 tablespoon of the dressing over the shrimp.
- In a large bowl, combine the rinsed and dried cucumber with the mixed greens, shiso, and scallion. Pour the remaining 3 tablespoons of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and togarashi, if you like and serve with the roasted shrimp.
Nutritional analysis based on 4 servings:
Calories 201, Fat 10g, Sodium 569mg, Carbohydrate 9g, Fiber 2g, Sugars 3g, Protein 20g
*These are the small cucumbers that are great for pickling.