“Tastes a bit like garam masala.” my grandson said, “its peppery.”
I had just given him a shiso leaf to taste. Garam masala is an Indian mix of aromatic spices that include cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon and cumin. Yes, he was right. Shiso leaves do give hints of these spices yet have a very fresh lemony aroma as well.
I had only eaten shiso leaves in Japanese sushi dishes and had therefore associated them with fish — raw fish at that. But since I have started growing them in my garden, I have discovered their natural affinity to both Indian and Italian food. I now routinely add them to my cucumber salad (my cucumbers vines are producing very generously right now) and when I am layering some mozzarella with tomatoes, I sprinkle some torn shiso leaves on the top or put a whole shiso leaf under each slice of tomato. They can be used like green coriander/cilantro when cooking cauliflower or green beans.
I chop them and add them to green salads and yogurt raitas. Shiso, or perilla, also called beefsteak, is an annual plant of the mint family. I grow it from seed.