Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Friday Food 119 – Purple Perilla

Friday food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time we are looking at purple perilla.

Purple Perilla, 紫苏 (Perilla frutescens var. crispa) is a herb in the mint family. It is a popular choice throughout South-east Asia and Japan as well as here in China.


Perilla comes in green varieties, known in Japan as shiso (紫蘇), their adaptation of the Chinese name, rendered in traditional characters, but the popular choice round here is the ‘purple’ variety. In fact it’s not entirely purple.

As you can see from the picture below which is of one leaf, one side is green and the other purple. This trait and the leaves’ sawtooth edges help to distinguish it from other purple vegetable which are superficially similar. Amaranth leaves, for example are either entirely green or entirely purple and lack the serrated edge.


The same perilla leaf from different sides

In China, perilla is generally simply stir-fried as a leaf vegetable with garlic and/or ginger and served as a dish to accompany others. However it is sometimes used as a herb, such as in this recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop.

It is important to know that cooking the plant causes the red/purple colouring to leech out. In many people’s eyes this makes the vegetable undesirable if mixed with other ingredients.

Of course, perilla is also used in TCM (traditional Chinese medicine). What isn’t? They reckon it boosts the immune system and alleviates the common cold. Probably does a better job in the latter case than the useless injections everyone insists on having. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, but they won’t believe me. They also think colds are caused by cold. Nonsense. They forget that every time they get a summer cold. But, I digress.

Purple perilla is in the supermarkets now at around ¥20/kg. The bunch in the picture cost me ¥4.69 in 大润发 yesterday.

. This entry was posted on Friday, April 11th, 2014 at 7:00 am and is filed under Food and Drink, Friday Food. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to “Friday Food 119 – Purple Perilla”

  1. Glenys Says:

    So, for this total plebeian, how do you cook it? In what dish?

  2. Glenys Says:

    OOps, left out reading the use paragraph, sorry.
    Also, what was the animal stretched out and cooked in your last series of delicious looking dishes?

  3. Spencer Says:

    Hey Ken, for some reason I can’t comment on the last post, but I was wondering if you had a recipe for luosifen. I don’t think I could find everything in Chinatown grocery stores, but I wanted to give it a shot. Great blog by the way! R.I.P. Time Bar.

  4. Liuzhou Laowai Says:

    Apologies. I turned off comments on that particular post as, for some reason, it was attracting a lot of nasty spam. I’ve turned it back on again. Hopefully, they got bored and have moved on.

    As to your question re a Luosifen recipe, I’ll deal with that shortly. Watch this space!

    (What’s wrong with Time Bar? It was there today.)

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