JOURNAL / JAPAN etc.(English)

JAPAN [Aomori]
Japanese Ingredients for the World’s Top Kitchens #19


A Mainstay Herb of Aomori Cooking


text by Michiko Watanabe / photographs by Daisuke Nakajima / English text by Susan Rogers Chikuba

Though the times are always changing, there are certain timeless ingredients from Japan that will never go out of style. Yukio Hattori, president of Hattori Nutrition College in Tokyo, introduces unique labors of love—items grown and produced with care and integrity by hardworking suppliers across the country.

“We sow in late April and harvest the leaves from late June to mid-September,” Kiko Kasai tells us about the purple-tinged shiso perilla she grows in Aomori. In season she is out in the fields each morning from 4 a.m., gathering upwards of 8,000 leaves while they’re still wet with dew. To find out how this plant in the mint family is used in local cuisine, we spoke with the Hirosaki-based food historian Ryoko Kudo.

 Kudo heads Tsugaru Akatsuki no Kai, a group of 28 women who research traditional recipes and cooking methods of this northern Honshu region.“In Aomori we wrap pickled plums in salt-cured shiso leaves. Sliced eggplant spread with miso and wrapped in the leaves for cooking is common, too. Versatile shiso adds color to sweets and works well in salads. Book a lunch with us to taste its many uses firsthand.”

(photo left) Harvesting red perilla shiso leaves from the bottom of the stalk extends the growing season. Each leaf of the Aomori-grown plant is as big as one’s palm.
(photo right) Sushiko is a fortifying snack of steamed sticky rice fermented with chopped shiso, cucumbers, and cabbage.

Tsugaru Akatsuki no Kai leader Ryoko Kudo is flanked by four of the women who work with her to codify and transmit local food wisdom.

Light and refreshing shiso juice is a favorite summer drink nationwide. 

Shiso lends itself well to any number of uses, raw or cooked. At left it forms the spiral patterns of a rice-flour confection.

◎Tsugaru Akatsuki no Kai
44-13 Yagishi, Ishikawa, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori

(The Cuisine Magazine /October 2019)