Perilla Leaves, Sesame Shiso, Tiá Tô | Taste, Uses, and How to Eat

Whether you call it Perilla Leaf or Sesame Shiso, there are so many things you can do with this unique herb! Today I’ll be talking about Tiá Tô, how it tastes, what you can use it for, and more.

What Are Perilla Leaves?

Perilla Leaf, also known as Sesame Shiso and known in Vietnam as Tiá Tô, is an herb native to the mountainous regions of Asia. It’s used mainly in Korean, Thai, Japanese, and of course, Vietnamese cuisine.

They were first distributed throughout Asia via trade routes. Later in the 1800s, immigrants brought them to the United States. Nowadays, Perilla leaves can be found at fresh markets and specialty grocers in Asia, Southeast Asia, and the United States.

What Do Perilla Leaves Taste Like?

Despite the name, sesame Shiso leaves don’t actually taste like sesame. Shiso is a member of the mint family. The leaves are highly aromatic and have a grassy, herbaceous flavor with hints of star anise or licorice.

Depending on what kind you get, the taste can also have notes of basil and mint. For example, Japanese Shiso is much smaller and mintier in taste. Vietnamese Tiá Tô, meanwhile, has a stronger, earthier taste (and is purple underneath!).

What to Eat With Perilla Leaves

Shiso leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. In cooked applications, they’re used in stir-frying, sautéing, and boiling. Try perilla leaves stir-fried with chicken and shiitake, sautéed with soy sauce, sesame oil, chili flakes, garlic, and green onion, or incorporated in noodle soup. Another popular option is Korean marinated and pickled perilla leaves or Kkaennip Jangajji (깻잎장아찌).

They are also used as a wrap for rice, barbecued meats, sushi, and vegetables. The next time you have Korean barbecue, try scooping a little rice, meat, and ssamjang (쌈장, a thick and spicy Korean condiment) onto a shiso leaf. Delicious!

In Vietnamese cuisine, we often eat it alongside phở (noodle soup) or búnchả (grilled pork and noodles) alongside other herbs and vegetables. Herbs play a big role in Vietnamese cuisine. They add a lot of freshness and diversity to the flavors of any dish. You can also find it in salads or as a side for grilled meat and rice dishes.

Medicinal Uses of Perilla Leaves

Perilla Leaves are also considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. In China, it’s known as Zi Su (紫苏), and its earliest known documentation is in a medicinal formula dating all the way back to the Song Dynasty of China. It was noted in a book called Taiping HuiminHejiju Fang, written in 1110 BCE.

It’s used as a cure for bloating, stomach problems, lung problems, and ailments believed to be caused by wind-cold (body aches, sneezing, clear or white phlegm, and itchy throat). Perilla supplements are also used to treat asthma, muscle spasms, nausea, and sunstroke.

Tiá Tô leaves are a fantastic herb and can be a healthy and delicious addition to your diet. Pick some up at the store today and give them a try! They might even become your new favorite.

The intense flavors are perfect for cooking seafood such as shrimps and fish dishes. Aromatic leaves are also widely used in pickling. Plants can be grown ion open fields, gardens, or containers. Vietnamese Cuisine uses different Shiso varieties similar to the Japanese Shiso, but with greenish bronze on the top face and purple on the other side. In Vietnam, it is called Tiá Tô and it is usually eaten as a garnish in rice vermicelli dishes called bun and several stews and simmered dishes.  Personally, anytime I make Korean food at home, I have some Shiso / Perilla / Sesame / Tiá Tô on the side to be eaten raw.