Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Japanese Natural herbs for food

Traditionally, Japanese cuisine uses a range of herbs that are valued as a garnish, for their flavours and also for their nutrients.


A herb of the dropwort family, native to Japan, valued partly for its fragrance and partly for its use as a garnish. Its culinary uses include being boiled and wrapped around sushi such as squid and flounder, when it lends its flavour to the sushi; being boiled and marinated in soya sauce to make a dressing; and in nabe (a Japanese stew). It is also used in miso soup, dobin-mushi, o-suimono and chawan-mushi (an egg-custard dish containing ingredients such as ginkgo nuts, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, prawn and chestnuts which are selected according to season and local tradition) when it is used both as a decoration and to add flavour to the dishes.


In the same family as mitsuba, this is a dropwort plant which is used in a very similar way to mitsuba. It can also be eaten with sashimi, boiled in soya sauce and eaten as sunomono (food pickled in vinegar).

Shiso (Japanese Basil)
Ohba/ Aojiso

The green, Japanese basil leaf which can be served as tempura, in salads and with sashimi. It is also ground and used to flavour sauces, added to ponzu (a soya sauce, dashi (fish stock) and daidai juice sauce), used in nabe (Japanese stews) and Japanese-style spaghetti dishes. The leaves can be soaked in soya sauce for a year and wrapped around rice to make a tasty onigiri (Japanese rice ball), or chopped up, boiled in soya sauce and sugar and left to ferment to make tsukudani, which is eaten as a side-dish to accompany rice. Sea bream, flounder and prawns can be wrapped in ohba leaves and grilled to produce fragrant fish dishes.

The fruit of the shiso plant which remains after the plant has flowered and is likened to a rose hip. It can be battered and cooked as tempura, or mashed up and mixed together with soya sauce and wasabi to serve with sashimi. This style of sauce is called, “ohba shouyu”.

A variety of shiso which turns pink when added to vinegar. It is akajiso which gives the pink colour and adds some flavour to umeboshi (pickled plums). It is also used as a paste or mixed with salt, which is called, “yukari”. As yukari it can be mixed into rice to make onigiri where it lends its very distinctive flavour to the rice.

Tade (Water pepper)

Water peppers are eaten raw with fish because they have alkaline properties and can balance the acidity of the fish in the same way as other raw vegetables do.

A green and bitter cress called “water pepper” which can be eaten raw. Tade is used only with “ayu” (Sweetfish) as it enhances its flavour.

A fragrant and spicy, purple variety used as a garnish and palette refresher for sashimi.