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Anne K Moore
Photograph Anne K Moore

Red Perilla, which I prefer to call purple, grows in my garden without any help from me. It self-seeds in flowerbeds, in grass, in pots and looks so pretty I hate to pull it out. In the photo its frilly purple leaves make a lovely backdrop to the Oriental Lily ‘Defender Pink’. The perilla snuggled up to the lily all on its own and created a charming combination.

I am happy to find a way to use perilla (Perilla frutescens var crispa) in the kitchen as well as in the garden. Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and to some extent Vietnamese cooks use perilla in salads and stir-fries. Perilla has an anise flavor with mild spicy overtones. Also called red perilla and red shiso, I found this recipe on line at The Splendid Table, excerpted from the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province and tried it. Guess what? I more than liked it. The flavors were so different. They blended for a distinctive taste. I had never fried cucumber before so the recipe was a first for me in many ways. I wonder if yellow squash or zucchini might also be good in this recipe?

Cucumber/Perilla Stir Fry
From Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fuchsia Dunlop (W. W. Norton, 2007) and modified to suit what I had on hand in my kitchen. I also used a large non-stick skillet for preparation instead of a wok.

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped (I used 1 tsp of dry red chili pepper)
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. clear rice vinegar
  • A small handful purple perilla leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil (I toasted sesame seeds in the skillet)
  • 3 tbsp. peanut oil or lard for cooking (I used olive oil)

1. Halve the cucumber and then cut each half into slanted slices about 1/4 inch thick.
2. Heat the wok or skillet over high heat, and then add the oil or lard and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Add the cucumber slices and fry for a few minutes until they are slightly browned on both sides.
3. Stir the chili pepper and garlic into the wok or skillet, adding the soy sauce as you stir.
4. Pour the vinegar in around the sides of the wok or skillet and mix into the other ingredients.
5. Add the Perilla and stir a few times. Remove from the heat and enjoy.

Posted July 11, 2014

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