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While shopping in our local Asian grocery, I noticed a pile of fresh sesame greens, which I've never seen before. Is there a specific reason to cook these, or to serve them raw? Meaning, would cooking mellow a harsh flavor, or enhance a delicate flavor?

I'll ask this part separately if you feel it's a separate issue, but are they a standalone ingredient, or used more as a flavor component?

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How sure are you that they were actually sesame greens, and not perilla? It looks like it's a common mistranslation in Korean cuisine. –  Jefromi Sep 12 '12 at 21:04
    
I'm not sure at all, as I'd never heard of them, but the sign definitely read "sesame greens." They were right next to the mustard greens (what was labeled mustard greens, that is), but they were clearly two diferent items. They did look a lot like the picture you linked, but were a deeper, darker green. –  MargeGunderson Sep 13 '12 at 2:28
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Assuming you're talking about ggaennip, also known as shiso, it's quite common to use it raw or salt-pickled. There are two common varieties, red and green-leafed, and to my taste there are some subtle differences between the Korean, Japanese, and maybe Vietnamese varieties.

In Korea and Vietnam, ggaennip is frequently used to wrap foods (ssam bap, for example, or the Vietnamese turmeric crepe). Shiso can be used to wrap foods, as a garnish, or chopped and served on some things, like grilled chicken (yakitori) as a flavor contrast.

I don't see much point in cooking shiso or yukari, but I've cooked the red pepper and salt pickled version sold in cans (or sometimes in the freshly made kimchi section) by adapting it into a sort of variation on the mediterranean dolma. It retains much of the flavor, but is different than the raw leaf and mellower than just the pickle it starts from.

I do appreciate shiso tempura, so I'm not dogmatic about not-cooking, and there is certainly precedent for some cooked applications. I've also made an agedashi-doufu, deep fried tofu in soup stock, which had shiso added before it was coated for deep frying.

Shiso/gaennip is now popularly used in a drink that has added lemon juice or citric acid, but I've only seen this as a concentrate or prepared beverage, so it's possible that it requires some industrial techniques to retain the flavor when making a syrup.

Dried salted shiso, called yukari in Japanese, is also used raw, but often mixed into warm rice either as a topping or to make onigiri.

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The Wikipedia article on perilla (particularly the caption on the top picture, the culinary overview and the Korea section) suggest that shiso and ggaennip are similar but distinct plants. –  Jefromi Sep 13 '12 at 0:59
    
Thanks – now I wish I'd grabbed them; they were only $1.49 for a large bunch. –  MargeGunderson Sep 13 '12 at 2:31
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