The secret to good summer rolls is to use a variety of herbs. I found this last weekend when following Uyen Luu’s recipes in the OFM. Her recipe required a host of exotic aromatics, and I was glad I had been able to find hot mint, garlic chives, coriander and Vietnamese perilla in a nearby Asian supermarket. Each of these helped the rolls to taste supremely fresh.
Thing is, six summer rolls barely dented the bunches I’d bought. Which left me wondering WTF I should do with the remaining herbs? I hate wasting luxuries like these.
A particular sticking point was the perilla. This nettle shaped leaf is very similar to Japanese shiso (perilla frutescens), just not quite enough to share exactly the same name. It has a distinctive flavour – the kind that’s best described by saying “tastes, like, er, well, shiso“. If you don’t know it, sorry. Find a Japanese or Vietnamese restaurant and request a leaf.
Some light Googling suggested there are plenty of matches. I’m used to shiso/perilla with raw fish and rice, but pork, chick, beef and berries were all regularly touted as good with the herb. If I wanted to stay on a Vietnamese theme, I’d eat them wrapped around crepes or mixed in to an omelette. But I fancied a change of scene and, in the end, decided the best bet was to use it purely as a seasoning.
One savoury: the majority of the leaves dehydrated, crushed and mixed with Maldon. I’ve enjoyed this on rice with cooked fish and suspect I’ll keep adding it to just about everything until I run out.
Two sweet: fresh leaves chopped finely and mixed with lots of sugar, lime zest and mint; and more fresh leaves and lime, with toasted coconut and just a sprinkle of sugar. Both of these were been brilliant with fresh pineapple and blueberries. Add just a little squeeze of lime juice to lift things further.
I’ll stop waffling now. There are some brief instructions at the bottom, but the pictures are much more enjoyable.
Vietnamese perilla. Fit.
Toasted coconut, perilla, mint, lime zest, sugar.
Sugar, perilla, mint, lime zest.
Perilla seasoned pineapple (with toasted coconut, lime zest, sugar and mint)
Some ‘cooking’ thoughts
- The perilla leaves took just 25 minutes to dry out at approx 70C in a fan oven. The smell is awesome.
- Becomes dust between your fingers, but I pushed the remains through a sieve (so that larger stalks were filtered out).
- I mixed c.2.5g dried leaves with c.40g Maldon salt flakes. Good, seaweed / umami hit (though fresh leaves are definitely stronger).
- On which theme, for sweet seasoning, just ‘chiffonade’ and mix with sugar and whatever else you wish. I used 1:1 perilla and mint making around 3g herb total to go with 30g caster sugar and the zest of half a lime. Clumps a little, but should last a couple of days.
- For the coconut seasoning, toast 30g dried coconut, cool, add the same amount of herbs and lime but just 10g of caster sugar.
- The quantities of either sweet seasoning will sort you out for a medium sized pineapple. Squeeze at least half a lime over too.
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