Tomato and Shiso Salad

shiso_tomatosForget the basil, forget the chives, the mint or the parsley; shiso is undeniably the tomato’s best friend. Shiso (紫蘇) or perilla, a staple in the Japanese cuisine, has a herbaceous, slightly bitter flavour and a strong aroma. It is used as well in raw as in cooked dishes (see the Ume-Shiso Chicken Skewers). I took to shiso instantly and the more I use it the more I like it. Looking for some shiso use ideas I stumbled upon a wonderful inspiring blog called Humble Bean, where I found the Tomato and Shiso Salad and felt at once I would not be disappointed.

I was right. The salad was a revelation. It is falsely simple, yet proves sophisticated and complex, which for me is a perfect definition of the Japanese cuisine. The sweetness of the tomato, the bitterness of the shiso and the lively crunch of the onion are already an  ideal combination, but the delicate sauce makes it extraordinary. The salad is so addictive I served it two days in a row and I feel I could have it not only every day, but with every meal or even in between, as a light snack. The only modification was substituting the onion with a shallot (I ran out of onions). In theory the below amount serves two, but for me it makes only one portion for one shiso addict. Thank you, Azusa, for this marvellous discovery.

An old photograph with a big tomato and green/red shiso variety from Thailand

Preparation: 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

1 big chilled tomato (or ten mini-tomatoes halved lengthwise)

3 big shiso leaves (both green and red are delicious here, in my opinion)

1/2 small onion (I used 1/2 shallot)


1/2 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

several turns of the freshly ground pepper

Remove the tomato stem and slice it.

Chop finely the onion and soak it for 5 minutes in cold water.

Do the same with shiso (in a separate bowl).

Combine the sauce ingredients.

Drain the onion and the shiso and pat dry.

Arrange the tomato slices in a bowl.

Sprinkle with the onion, then with shiso and drizzle the sauce over it.

20 Replies to “Tomato and Shiso Salad”

  1. I love tomato salads…Didn’t know about the shiso leaf..I love your blog for these brilliant ideas and it’s highly educational about the Japanese cuisine, which I am trying to learn and incorporate in our daily meals. It’s so healthy and full of goodness. I am on the lookout for a Japanese supermarket here. There are so many chinese outlets but have had no success in looking for a japanese one. Hopefully soon.

    Beautiful, fresh recipe…

    1. Thank you Shilpa, I’m so flattered with your compliments 🙂 I also love learning and discovering the Japanese cuisine and feel this discovery stage is never ending (luckily!). This salad is very healthy, you are right. I hope you find a Japanese shop, but some products can be bought at the Chinese or Vietmanese shops too (I buy my shiso in a Vietnamese shop and they sell soba noodles, nori sheets etc.). Good luck!

  2. I am so intrigued to try shiso now…! I’ve heard about it many times, in your blog, in Nami’s blog, in a Korean blog, etc, but I have got no luck so far finding the leaves. So far I love to combine tomatoes with rucola and basils (and of course mozzarella cheese :)). I agree with you that Japanese cuisine sounds simple if you just look at the ingredients, but the flavour is so sophisticated and even complex…!

    1. I hope you like shiso as much as I do when you finally find it. Maybe try ordering grains and planting it? I am happy you agree with my vision of the Japanese cuisine 🙂

  3. I was at the Asian grocery store and reminded myself to look for shiso, but totally got distracted by the rest of the beautiful produce and forgot, AGAIN! The salad looks so refreshing, now if I can just get myself to focus more on what I need to remember the next time I grocery shop…

    1. Jeno, make a shopping list 🙂 I always do this, otherwise I forget the most important item.

  4. Shiso, sissi…is that why you like shiso so much?:) I love tomato and onion salad, also mint or coriander. I think there is a Middle Eastern version that uses parsley which I suppose is similar to sissi, typo, sorry, shiso

    1. Mr. Three-Cookies, you have found the real reason of my shiso addiction! Sissi sips shiso shochu… it could make a nice tongue twister 😉
      I dare say shiso is not similar to any other – at least European – herb I know. I have been eating sliced tomatoes with onions all my childhood and always liked this salad, but now, thanks to Japanese recipes, I know what a huge difference soaking onion in water makes!

  5. What a simple refreshing salad! I love tomato salad and this dish often appears in many Izakaya place. I forgot about this. It’s often served during summer time in my house as summer tomatoes are so delicious in Japan. Shiso and tomato is a great match! Mr. Three-Cookies is right… your name will turn into shiso soon… 😉 Don’t worry I love shiso as much as you do!!!

    1. Thank you Nami! I didn’t know it was an izakaya dish too! I was told your pork and potato rolls were also of izakaya type, the ume-shiso chicken skewers were an izakaya dish… I think visiting as many izakayas as possible would be the most important thing to do in Japan 🙂 Yes, I become crazy about shiso!

    1. It has a very original taste, very refreshing and “dynamic” if a herb can be dynamic 😉 I hope you can find it in Italy.

  6. Never had tried this herb, I always go to Asian store and never noticed one, looks like I will search for it on my next visit

    1. Robert-Gilles, I have never heard of it! Now I am very happy to have my own shiso plant on the balcony 🙂 My Japanese shop sells always shiso plants in pots in June! (I had shiso grains brought from Japan by a friend but they don’t want to sprout 🙁

  7. The problem is the season! I’m pretty sure that the pots they sell were prepared in greenhouses!
    By the way if you already have shiso growing at home, you don’t need to buy seeds.
    Just let one or two flowers completely mature and once dried on the stem, shake it to get the seeds!

    1. Thank you, Robert-Gilles! I don’t know why I haven’t done it last year… I am sure it’s from the greenhouse, but I think it’s healthier and more natural than the shiso leaves I usually buy in a Vietnamese grocery: they are imported from Thailand (the Japanese grocery hardly ever sells them).
      I have really become hooked on this tomato shiso salad. Now in the tomato season I sometimes have it three days in a row and start dangerously increasing the shiso amount every time I make it… I hope there is no danger in shiso overdose 😉

    1. Thank you, Mr. Three-Cookies! I have found there some new ideas (and one thing I have completely forgotten to post!).

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