These rolls are the result of an exceptional craving for tonkatsu (Japanese breaded pork cutlets) combined with a desperate need to do something with an abundant crop of shiso leaves. I sliced the pork very thinly, seasoned it, rolled tightly with the shiso leaves, breaded and deep-fried. These crisp and aromatic rolls were perfect to celebrate probably one of the last harvests of this year’s balcony-grown shiso.
TIPS: Shiso (or perilla) is a Japanese herb (though it’s also used in Thailand and a slightly differently scented variety also in Korea), which luckily becomes more and more popular abroad (my two local gardening shops have been selling it potted for the third year in row). It grows in most climates, even on a balcony, so if you cannot get the potted plant, try sowing it. Unfortunately, shiso isn’t similar to any other herb I know, so I have no idea what can be used here instead. Certainly a herb which is still aromatic and good after being cooked (maybe Thai basil?).
My favourite way to have these rolls is with a mixture of mayonnaise and sediments from chilli oil (Taberu rayu), but they are also very good with soy sauce and chilli oil and I guess any dipping sauce will be delicious.
You can ask the butcher to cut thin pork slices or use a big wide very sharp knife (I now always do it on my own, it takes 5 minutes).
Make sure you have enough shiso leaves to cover the whole surface (more or less) of the slices. Otherwise you won’t feel the taste of shiso once it’s fried.
If you can get Japanese panko breadcrumbs, use them here. They are crisper and seem to absorb less fat than standard or homemade breadcrumbs.
Preparation: about 40 minutes
Ingredients (serves as a main dish for 4-5, if served with rice and vegetables, or as a snack/appetiser for 6 or 7 at least):
1/2 kg (about 1 lb) pork loin, without fat, cut into thin (max. 2 mm) slices
big shiso leaves (as many as the number of slices or double the amount if the leaves are small; they should cover more or less the whole surface of the slices)
1 egg, beaten with a fork
2 heaped tablespoons flour
2 big handfuls of breadcrumbs (use the Japanese panko if you can)
oil for deep-frying (I thought 400 ml oil was enough for this amount of rolls)
Prepare three bowls: one with breadcrumbs, one with flour and one with a beaten egg.
Start heating the oil in a small deep pan (I advise placing it as far from yourself as possible; I always deep-fry on a hob next to the wall).
In the meantime season each slice of pork with salt and pepper (on one side only).
Place the shiso leaf/leaves on the seasoned side and roll very tightly (no need for skewers; these rolls will somehow “stick” together during the frying process).
Roll each roll in flour, then in the egg and finally in breadcrumbs.
Deep-fry until golden. (The oil is ready for deep-frying when some breadcrumbs thrown into it instantly change colour and stay at the surface).
Serve them either as a snack, a starter or a main dish. They need a dipping sauce (see the TIPS above).