Cucumber Fried with Perilla (Shiso)


Have you ever fried cucumber? Even though it’s one of the vegetables I eat most often, such a way to serve it had never crossed my mind before I saw this recipe in the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop. In constant search of new ways to cook shiso (see below), I prepared this dish out of pure curiosity, considering it a rather risky experiment. Luckily, quickly fried, still crunchy and juicy cucumber tasted surprisingly well. Paired with strong, slightly astringent shiso leaves, fresh chili and vinegar, it created a bold-tasting and original side-dish.

Shiso (紫蘇), or perilla, is an Asian aromatic dark red or green plant with an astringent taste and strong fragrance. I have discovered it thanks to the Japanese cuisine, where it’s frequently used raw, cooked and its red variety is gives a reddish hue to pickles. Similar varieties of this herb are also used in Korean (ggaennip, 깻잎) and Vietnamese (tía tô) cuisines. Thanks to Fuchsia Dunlop’s book I learnt that perilla is also appreciated in China.  Shiso is not to everyone’s taste, but I instantly fell in love with its herbaceous aroma and the more I cook with it, the more I appreciate it.

Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, which presents the Hunan province, has not only revealed a new way to prepare cucumber. It has most of all made be realise I am very fond of the combination of hot, salty and sour flavours, typical of this place (and often distorted abroad by the addition of sugar). The few dishes I cooked from this book (I hope to share them with you soon) were excellent and proved once more that Fuchsia Dunlop approaches food writing with discipline and passion. I equally – and even more –  recommend her “Sichuan Cookery” which is one of the best  cookery books I have ever seen.

If you like cucumber and have access to shiso, try this simple but surprising (at least for me) recipe. I haven’t modified the original instructions and have only changed amounts of ingredients. If you don’t find shiso, the author advises Thai sweet basil and I totally agree. The taste will be completely different, but it’s also a strong, aromatic herb, which gives excellent results when cooked. For me, the taste of the dish is interesting enough to try making it without any herb.

If you look for shiso cooking ideas, you might like some of these:

Teriyaki Pork Rolls with Shiso and Gochujang
Teriyaki Pork Rolls with Shiso and Gochujang
Pork Rolls and Shiso in Tempura
Pork Rolls and Shiso in Tempura
Garlic and Shiso Infused Soy Sauce
Garlic and Shiso Infused Soy Sauce
Shiso and Bacon Fried Rice
Shiso and Bacon Fried Rice

Preparation: about 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

1/2 long cucumber

1 red chili (fresh)

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon  rice vinegar

4 tablespoons chopped perilla leaves (the recipe calls for purple perilla leaves, but I’m sure you can use the green variety too)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil

Halve the cucumber lengthwise and then cut diagonally into 0.5 cm/about 1/4 in thick slices.

Chop the chili and the garlic. (Remove the chili seeds if you don’t want your dish to be too hot).

Heat one tablespoon oil in a pan or wok.

Spread the cucumber slices at the bottom and fry them at high heat until they are slightly golden on one side (about 2 minutes). Turn them and fry the other side in the same way.

Add the chili, the garlic and the soy sauce. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the vinegar and the chopped perilla.

Stir well the dish for one minute and put the pan aside.

Add the sesame oil and stir well before serving.



41 Replies to “Cucumber Fried with Perilla (Shiso)”

  1. You always introduce some of the most interesting dishes! To answer your first question – NO – I’ve never fried cucumbers and have never even “thought” of frying cucumbers. I’ve had fried cucumber pickles, but that’s not what you are doing here. What an unusual and creative dish! I believe I’ve seen perilla leaves at the Asian market, but didn’t know what they were. I’ll more closely the next time. Thanks for introducing me to yet another new ingredient and flavor!!!

    1. MJ, pickled fried cucumber sounds for me even more out-of-space than fresh one! Have you posted the recipe? Can you say how you do it? It sounds awesome!
      You can try preparing this dish without perilla. I think the taste (sour and hot) and warm cucumber are interesting enough to skip herbs.

      1. Sissi, I’ve never made fried pickles myself, but I always buy them at one of our local pubs and just recently at a food truck that I’ve discovered. When and if I do make some myself, I’ll definitely send you the recipe! Hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend!

        1. Thank you so much, MJ. If I ever try making it in the meantime, I will let you know! It is very tempting and unusual.

  2. ..and they even turn golden – it is like telling to fry and caramelize a spoon of tablewater (laugh). Never thought this could work out but it looks delicious.

    1. Thank you so much, Kiki. Well, they don’t turn golden like chicken breasts 😉 but yes, they slightly change their colour. It was a good experience and since I eat cucumber quite often, I was glad to discover I can eat it when I don’t feel like having a salad.

  3. I could have sworn that was zucchini! (which I fry routinely). Your cucumber held up so well to the frying process – given the high water content in cucumber, I would imagine it translating into mush upon frying so this is a really neat discovery. This is such a pretty dish too Sissi and with your beloved shiso to accompany the other seasonings, I can just imagine the delightful medley of flavors going on here. What a great side dish.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. It’s briefly fried, so it’s not mushy but I was also afraid it would become soggy quite quickly.

  4. I love perilla and often I use it as a wrap when i cook Korean marinated grilled meat, mostly instead of the lettuce. This meal sounds interesting and delicious–fried cucumbers i never tried but this is great recipe worth of trying! On the other note Teriyaki Pork Rolls with Shiso and Gochujang looks so yummy too-great combo, i am gochujang addict hehe. Thanks Sissi for sharing and have a beautiful weekend ahead!

    1. Thanks a lot, Sandra. I keep on expanding my shiso recipes because I buy it in huge bunches and hate to throw it away (apart from the fact that I love it!). If you like gochujang, then you will love the pork rolls! Have a lovely weekend too.

  5. I’ve rarely eaten fried cucumber. The memory I have is eating over cooked and mushy cooked cucumber, not pleasant. I will try this tonight and will complain to you if it doesn’t turn out well:)
    I’ve always wanted to try fried pickles – the American version – battered and deep fried! Its probably not the healthiest way to eat it, but its OK if you pair it with DIET coke.
    Have a nice weekend.

    1. Mr. Three-Cookies, the challenge accepted! The cucumber is thickly cut, briefly fried and is not mushy. Slightly soft, but still crunchy. Yes, I agree, fried pickled sound amazing! And of course if you take diet Coke, then everything is permitted 😉 Have a lovely weekend too!

      1. Hi Sissi, I had it tonight. Thickly sliced, it was not mushy. However I only added salt, it would have been a lot nicer with other flavours, like you used. I think I prefer cucumber salad or pickled cucumber over fried cucumber. But maybe I will try it again with more flavours next time.

        1. Hi, Mr. Three-Cookies. I’m relieved it was not awful at least 😉 Yes, I also prefer raw cucumber or pickled, but I eat so much cucumber (almost every day!), this dish was a nice change. I must admit that I was especially attracted to it because of shiso use.

  6. ha! I need to show that to my husband because he said I was mad a few years back. You see I had the idea of frying cucumbers but monsieur said it was nonsense! But there is a thing. the cucumbers here are somehow different to the ones in Europe. You have to peel them because the skin is too bitter, while the ones we have in the mountains in Europe were always acceptable sweet with the skin. I wish you a wonderful weekend Sissi!

    1. Hi Helene, I’m glad you have experimented already this way with cucumbers, but I can imagine how your husband reacted… I was suspicious too. Have a nice weekend too.

  7. Although I haven’t had shared recipes with shiso, I’ve been always cooking with it! It seems very hard for everyone to get shiso (or they don’t need to plant shiso just for occasional use), and it’s too bad. Such a great and unique herb to enjoy. No, I’ve never fried cucumber before. This sounds very interesting and delicious to try out!

    1. Thanks a lot, Nami. I think that many people assume they will not get shiso because they don’t have Japanese/Korean shops around. Even in my city all the Japanese I met think there is no shiso sold anywhere, while a very popular Asian (mostly Vietnamese and Thai food) shop carries it all year long! I agree though that if there are no good Asian grocers nearby, shiso might be difficult to get…

  8. Hi Sissi, wouldn’t you know it – I’m familiar with fried cucumbers. I had them cooked in this style during a trip to China in 2001 and I’ve been preparing them as part of my “Chinese platters” ever since (alongside aubergines stir-fried with garlic, cabbage with chilli, potatoes with chilli etc etc.).

    Its indeed not the sort of thing which people associate with fried food. The normal response is “er… fried……. “cucumber”?????” but it’s absolutely delicious. The heat from the chilli, the coolness of the cucumber. Very tasty, though they have the annoying habit of either being lava-hot, because of their high water content, or being stone-cold really fast, still it doesn’t matter.

    I’m not sure if I had it with perilla leaves when I was in China. It seemed quite a basic recipe iirc – chilli, cucumber, that’s about it, but I can imagine this alternative would be delicious! And good call on the slicing… I’ve always cut my cucumber into batons when frying it, and then it’s impossible to pick up with chopsticks… this looks a much more eater-friendly way 😀

    1. Hi, Charles. I would never guess!!! What a surprise. I’m glad you like it this way too. Apart from shiso, this mixture of flavours was nice because of sour and hot combination I keep on discovering.

  9. Ah, je mets cette recette de côté aussi ! Effectivement, le concombre cuit, c’est étonnant. Moi je l’ai déjà fait bouillir, et je trouve que ça prend un goût proche de la pomme de terre.
    Merci en tous cas de partager cette recette de Fuchsia Dunlop, dont j’ai découvert les livres (j’avais en particulier repéré celui-là d’ailleurs ^^) lors d’un voyage à Londres l’année dernière. C’est tout à fait le genre de cuisine que j’aime !
    Et le shiso, je l’ai découvert il y a peu mais je suis tout de suite tombée sous le charme de son parfum… d’ailleurs je compte bientôt en poster une recette aussi sur mon blog !
    Et sinon, j’ai regardé un peu ta rubrique de cuisine hongroise et j’en suis ravie, il y a des choses dont je ne me souvenais même plus comme le székely gulyas que j’aime pourtant beaucoup, et il faudra vraiment que j’essaie ta recette de paprikas csibe ! Bref, merci encore d’être passée par mon blog 😉

    1. Merci beacuoup, Helena. Je suis ravie d’apprendre que tu aimes shiso aussi! Nous avons des goûts très similares et en même temps assez éclectiques… kimchi, shiso, cuisine hongroise… (Tiens, je viens d’y penser: as-tu vu ma recette de Székely gulyàs au gochujang? Une expérience folle et délicieuse (malgré une photo horrible)! J’ai aussi une recette standard de ce plat bien sûr.).
      A vrai dire, je préfère l’autre livre (sur Sichuan) non seulement à cause des recettes mais surtout parce que l’on sent l’énorme passion et attachement de l’auteure envers cette région. As-tu lu son livre qui raconte ses voyages culinaires? Elle raconte son séjour dans la province de Hunan et c’était loin d’être agréable… D’où probablement une sorte de froideur que je ressens ici par rapport à l’autre livre.
      Merci pour tous tes gentils mots!

      1. Oui, c’est vrai, je suis ravie d’avoir fait la connaissance d’une autre Occidentale complètement “fondue” de cuisine asiatique ! Pour la cuisine hongroise c’est un peu différent, je ne suis pas sûre que je m’y serais intéressée si je n’avais pas grandi avec 🙂 Mais je la redécouvre maintenant, sous un autre angle… oui, j’ai vu ta recette avec le gochujang, mais finalement je ne trouve pas ça si troublant puisque certains membres de ma famille utilisaient souvent de l'”erös pista” (pâte de piment) comme condiment, y compris avec ce genre de plat.
        Et puis ça me fait plaisir de voir qu’une blogueuse qui n’est pas “fluent” en anglais puisse avoir autant de succès ! Et, last but not least, contente d’avoir rencontré quelqu’un qui écrit d’aussi longs commentaires que moi 😉
        Pour le livre de Fuchsia Dunlop sur son séjour en Chine, j’en ai déjà vu des extraits, et je trouve vraiment intéressante cette forme intermédiaire, entre roman et livre de recettes, mais non, je ne l’ai pas lu ! Malheureusement j’ai du mal à trouver du temps pour lire depuis plusieurs années, et ça ne s’arrange pas avec le blogging 😀

        1. Bonjour, Helena. Merci pour ton gentil commentaire. J’aime beaucoup la cuisine hongroise, mais ce n’est pas assez varié (rien que du point de vue des épices) pour que je puisse la cuisiner souvent. Rien à avoir avec la cuisine chinoise, coréenne ou japonaise! Je connais très bien erös pista et c’est très amusant que tu le mentionnes parce que je suis en train de préparer un post où j’en parle!
          Haha! J’espère que je suis au moins “fluent” en anglais 😉 (sauf si on a une définition différente du terme!) bien qu’il soit loin d’être parfait… Je ne suis pas native speaker donc j’aurai toujours de gros complexes, mais écrire un blog me permet aussi d’améliorer au moins le vocabulaire. Tu es très gentille de dire ça, mais je ne pense pas avoir beaucoup de succès! Je n’ai jamais essayé de “vendre” mon blog à tout prix (comme tu as vu je n’ai même pas de pubs), donc cela reste un hobby à travers lequel je suis ravie de rencontrer des amis, partager mes passions, être continuellement inspirée et apprendre des nouvelles choses tous les jours. Je t’admire en revanche pour ton blog bilingue. Je n’aurai jamais le courage (j’y ai réfléchis avant de commencer mais j’ai vite abandonné l’idée… trop paresseuse 😉 ).
          Merci encore pour tes gentils commentaires. Moi aussi je suis ravie de rencontrer quelqu’un de bavard, comme moi 😉

          1. Désolée Sissi, je ne voulais pas être blessante, c’est moi qui ne suis pas “fluent” en l’occurrence 😉 Tu écris très bien en anglais, mieux que moi c’est sûr, mais personnellement je ne suis pas sûre de pouvoir me débrouiller aussi bien à l’oral qu’à l’écrit ! Et j’aimerais pouvoir écrire d’une façon aussi spontanée et vivante que les gens dont c’est la langue maternelle (j’adore le style de Shuhan ou d’Irina de Wandercrush par exemple) ! Voilà ce que je voulais dire, mais apparemment tu avais compris, malgré ma maladresse, que je voulais plutôt parler de “native speaking” 🙂
            Tu dis que tu n’as pas beaucoup de succès mais vu le nombre de commentaires, tu as déjà pas mal de lecteurs fidèles ! Et en fait moi aussi, au début j’espérais gagner un peu d’argent avec mon blog, et je voulais tout faire pour qu’il marche, et finalement je me rends compte que ça demande beaucoup de travail pour un résultat incertain, alors qu’en faisant un peu moins la course, on peut passer plus de temps à partager, échanger avec les autres. Merci pour ton compliment en tous cas ; si j’ai décidé d’écrire en anglais ce n’est pas totalement innoncent de ma part (c’est pour que les blogueuses que j’admire puisse venir voir mes recettes), mais je ne pourrais pas me passer (en tous cas pour l’instant) d’écrire en français, une langue que je maîtrise bien mieux !
            Enfin, je suis d’accord avec toi concernant les cuisines hongroise et asiatique, rien à voir… même si je trouve qu’il y a quelques points de jonction entre elles, dont je parlerai sans doute sur mon blog !
            Au plaisir de te lire bientôt, Sissi (j’ai hâte de voir ton article avec l’erös pista :)) !

            1. Coucou Helena, tu n’as pas été blessante! C’est juste que pour moi “fluent” c’est disons niveau avancé qui permet de s’exprimer avec aisance, et pas plus, donc j’ai bien compris que c’était une différence de définition entre nous 😉
              Moi aussi, j’aimerais écrire comme certains native speakers… mais cela n’arrivera jamais hélas. D’un autre côté, je ne pense pas que le niveau d’anglais soit important pour avoir beaucoup de succès (je connais plusieurs bloggeurs dont le niveau d’anglais est bien plus bas que le mien et qui semblent avoir un succès hallucinant). D’après mes observations il faut être très présents sur les sites, les portails et autres lieux de rencontres entre bloggeurs, avoir les plus de photos possible (et de très belles; les tiennes sont d’ailleurs mille fois mieux que les miennes!) et évidemment faire tout pour avoir le plus de visites. Enormément de boulot et d’efforts… mais si on veut gagner des sous, cela vaut le coup je suppose. C’est juste une approche un peu différente.
              Merci pour ton gentil message et désolée pour ce malentendu.

  10. I must try this recipe! I have a pot of kkaenip growing on my back deck….one of my favorite greens!

    My mom has made sauteed cucumbers for us and I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve also baked cucumbers using a Julia Child recipe. It’s amazing how they retain their crunchiness!

    1. Amy, I envy you so much… I haven’t managed to make shiso seeds even sprout… and I tried three years in a row. It’s the only herb I don’t know how to grow. (I start suspecting my seeds are too old).
      I have never baked cucumbers! It sounds like a new experiment I must make. Thank you for this wonderful idea. I will check in Julia Child’s book I have (frankly I have never heard about it in French cuisine, but maybe it’s an old and/or regional dish). It sounds very tempting!

    2. Oops, I mean kkaenip. I first read about perilla in Japanese cookery books and on blogs and keep on forgetting how to write it in Korean…

  11. I LOVE perilla leaves! That’s one of my favourite vegetable. It never crossed my mind to cook cucumber with perilla leaves but it sound great! I would love to try it soon! A while ago, I was able to obtain perilla leaf seeds and I planted them in my garden. But the locust loved the leaves so much too that all of my perilla leaves had a patch of a big hole. lol Since then I decided not to plant them until I have a proper repellent against locust.

    1. Hi Sue, I’m glad you like the idea. If I only had the locust problem… I have never managed to make the seeds sprout 🙁 I have tried for three years in a row. Luckily I can get perilla in an Asian shop. I love it too! Perilla is such a special herb!

  12. Frying cucumber is I’ve never heard of but sounds so awesome! I have 6 or 7 shiso plants in my back yard. I’m going to try this recipe very soon! Yes!

Comments are closed.