Sesame Leaves (Perilla frutescens var. frutescens)

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I was browsing the greens sections at Rustan’s Rockwell over the weekend and spotted these attractive leaves in a plastic bag in the chillers. I was pretty sure they weren’t shiso or commonly used perilla leaves in Japanese cuisine, so intrigued, I bought a pack of them, labelled “sesame leaves”. Back at home, I took them out of their bag, and took these photos. They have a pleasant aroma, though I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them…

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Turns out they are Korean perilla or sometimes referred to as sesame leaves, even though they aren’t related to the sesame plant. They are common in Korea, but not in Japan. And the same is true in the reverse for shiso leaves that are more common in Japan. I understand these are enjoyed with grilled meats (and I presume some chili paste or kimchi of some sort) and perhaps rolled up and popped into one’s mouth like finger food. They also make a handsome garnish for an Asian or Korean dish. At PHP30 a bag, they seemed to be a modestly priced ticket to learning something new (at least for me)…

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15 Responses

  1. Yes, you get these at Korean BBQs. Fill one with a bit of BBQed meat off of the grill, sauce, any other tasty tidbits (Koran BBQs have a tableful of little bowls & dishes of tasty morsels) … roll it up & pop it into your mouth.

    Sometimes you get lettuce leaves instead, I’m not sure if it is just for a change or the sesame leaves are sometimes out of season.

    I’ve never seen them outside of Korea (I’m in the US). But I’ve also never fund a Korean BBQ remotely as good as the ones in Korea!

  2. Samgyupsal tastes better when there’s sesame leaves. Lettuce leaf, sesame leaf, grilled pork belly, ssamjang, peeled garlic, green chili. Roll and then shove it in the mouth. One Korean client of mine told me that it is considered rude to slowly bit off the roll. It has to be wholly shoved inside the mouth to show one’s appreciation to the host. I don’t know if she was joking.

  3. Pamela, I have a big mouth so that’s doable. :) Used to eat Big Macs in 3 bites during college when you are prone to doing ridiculous things…

  4. MM, my next door neighbour in our community garden is Korean, Mr. Nam! Every year, he allots one big garden bed for rows and rows of sesame plant. He told me is a staple and they just grill any meat…thin slices of liempo or boneless short rib, sliced thinly as well.

    But if I were to do this, …I bet if you make Kimchi fried rice, and bbq meat, wrapped up in sesame leaves, it would be soooo good! But then again, it is one of those people help themselves and assemble their own.

    HAve you made the Ginger sEsame dressing I shared before? I usually make bottles and bottles of it and give away as presents with instructions on its many uses. I use it as marinade for KAhlbi…I just grate a brown Asian pear or Bosc pear will do. I purée an apple and it becomes Fuji Apple sesame dressing much like the JApAnese dressing.

  5. i always ask for these if i’m eating at a korean bbq restaurant. the taste and texture is way better than your regular old lettuce

  6. Oh, so it is now available here. I first tasted it on a trip to Korea and I liked it with the grilled meats served to us.

  7. These have a slightly minty aftertaste. It would make a great wrap in place of nori for sushi.

  8. i buy them at my suking korean grocery here in davao and they cost about 10 pieces for P20. i prefer the crunch of lettuce with grilled meat though.

  9. Hey! You’re right, these are actually not real sesame leaves. In Japan and Korea they are sometimes referred to as “wild sesame” but they are actually a kind of shiso leaf.

  10. MM, my favorite! ! It is good with grilled meats and kimchi fold in the edges and dunk in you mouth….Koreans preserve it with soy sauce etc and serve it as side dish. .banchan.

  11. Marketman, you are so lucky! At Php 30 per pack those are a steal! Wrap them around grilled liempo seasoned with just salt and pepper with some slivered chili and garlic, or kimchi, chives and blanched bean sprouts for an awesome Korean-style meal. ^_^

  12. You can also “pickle” these leaves. Seasoned perilla leaves go really well with just plain steamed rice.

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