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Kimchi-Inspired Perilla Leaves

Renée Robinson

These Marinated Herbal Leaves Really Elevate a Plain Bowl of Rice.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tasted perilla leaves. They’re big leaves that taste similar to mint and basil, but have a decidedly more intense and grassy flavor that also reminds me of deeply flavored spices. I bought these for the first time a couple of months ago when I went to my local Korean market to purchase the ingredients for cabbage kimchi. 

Eric Kim has a recipe for perilla leaf kimchi and I was intrigued. The leaves only require a couple of hours of marinating before they’re ready to eat. I liked them a lot and when I recently went back to the Korean market to replenish my cabbage kimchi ingredients, I bought more of the leaves.

But this time I did my own thing with them. I had some of my Salty Orange Cream on hand and thought its flavor would be great mixed into the marinade. I wanted to emphasize the orange flavor and also needed a small hit of sweetness, so I also added a tablespoon of orange marmalade. I used Aleppo pepper * and chipotle Morita flakes * instead of the typical gochugaru because I thought the smokiness would pair well with the orange flavor. Some soy sauce, nigella seeds *, and sliced garlic rounded it out nicely. But it still needed a little bit more sweetness in order to balance the flavors, so I added a half teaspoon of sugar. Now, it was ready to go.

Because the leaves are thin, you stack them 3 at a time, spoon a little of the marinade on the top leaf, and place the stack in a bowl. You just continue in this manner until all the leaves are used and any leftover marinade is spread on top. The marinade penetrates through all the leaves after a few hours and they’re ready to eat. Of course, they don’t have the funkiness of fermented kimchi. They’re simply packed full of flavor. 

I’ve tried them as accompaniments to several dishes and my favorite way to eat them is simply on top of white rice. I could eat umpteen bowls of rice with these on top and never tire of them. They add the perfect hit of acid and salty/sweet/herbal flavor to a bowl of rice. 

I normally chop them up, but I want to show you what the finished product looks like in the photo. And I sprinkled some white sesame seeds on top of this one, too, although it’s not at all necessary.

Seeing as how easy these are to make and how much I like them, I’ll make it a point to pick up more each time I visit the market. Plus, I just love roaming those aisles. I always see something new I’ve never noticed before and have to give it a try. It keeps things interesting and fun in the kitchen.  Another tip: If you’ve never tried the honeydew ice cream bars that are widely available in Korean grocery stores, I highly recommend you do so. They’re ubiquitous for a very good reason. We LOVE them.


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*Disclosure: I only recommend products I use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that, at no additional cost to you, may pay me a small commission and help support the costs of this website. Read full privacy policy here.

Kimchi-Inspired Perilla Leaves

Recipe by Renée Robinson



Large perilla leaves are marinated in some of my Salty Orange Cream, soy sauce, Aleppo pepper, Morita chipotle flakes, and a few other ingredients. After a couple of hours you've got one of the best toppings for a bowl of plain white rice. Salty and sweet, tart and freshly herbal. So delicious!

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  • Wash each leaf, front and back under cold running water. Spin dry in a salad spinner.
  • Whisk all the remaining ingredients, except the garlic, together in a small bowl. Stir in the garlic. Stack 3 leaves in the palm of your hand, top of the leaves facing up. Spread approximately 1 teaspoon of the sauce onto the top leaf and place them in a small bowl. Continue layering the leaves and sauce in this manner, until all the leaves are used. Spread any remaining sauce over the top leaf. Cover and chill for a couple of hours. They will keep for at least 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Chop up a few and use them as an accompaniment to plain rice or as a side dish. Enjoy!

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