Friday, August 29, 2014

Korean Perilla Japanese Perilla Potato Pothato? 한국의 깻잎과 일본의 시소

Today, I would like to talk about something that only Korean knows.
The thing that is so common in Korea but hardly ever found outside of Korea.
It's about a type of Korean herb, perilla. In Korean, 깻잎(katnip)

Japanese Perilla, Shiso
If you enjoy eating Asian food, especially Japanese food, you might have had this green leaf(it could be purple) that has very strong aroma almost like bitter citrus. They use it as a garnish on seafood or for a better presentation. The  purple one can also used when they make purple pickle. It's called shiso, in English, it's perilla(Perilla frutescens).

Korean Perilla, Katnip
However, the Korean perilla is nothing like Japanese shiso. The shape looks similar but the texture, aroma, even the taste is completely different. We not only use it for garnish or decoration purpose, we eat it with almost everything. When I eat sam gyup sal (pork belly) I wrap every bite of pork belly with it and add some ssam jang(spicy bean paste)! Heaven!

Katnip Pork belly wrap
Korean traditional cuisine do not generally use strong aromatic herbs such as cilantro or shiso (Japanese perilla) but we've been eating katnip(Korean perilla) for ages. I love it so much even from my childhood that I couldn't understand why katnip is almost impossible to find outside of Korea. It was quite rare in both Honolulu and London as well that I have been growing them on my own. When you like something so much, you wonder why other people do not care about it.

I had to put me in their shoes. Not only it's aroma is unique and strong, but also the texture is...well...very very tough. It's softer than kale but has short, very short fur on the leaves that it feels like a soft(yes, I am being positive) sand paper. After I became conscious of the unusual texture of my beloved herb, I could easily sense why people might hesitated to eat it. Since Japanese perilla is softer on the texture, it could be more approachable.

Korean secretly carry Katnip Kimchi while they travel
Then you might ask me why do I, does Korean go crazy about katnip? As I have mentioned earlier, this tough sand paper like leaves go great with any greasy food. Grilled pork belly, grilled eel taste wonderful with katnip wrap. It also tastes great with fishy seafood such as squid, octopus...etc. We even make katnip kimchi, deep fried katnip, kanip jun, katnip pickle, katnip wrapped rice...

So now what? If you like Korean food, or if you are an adventurous foodie, visit local Korean BBQ place and ask if they have katnip :) And tell me how did you enjoy it. But don't forget our foodie ground rule,
"Do not judge things after try them only once!"

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