Herbs are used for flavour and for aesthetic appeal in Japanese cuisine. Some of the most common Japanese herbs are: shiso, chrysanthemum leaves, mitsuba, kaiware, and sansho.
Shiso consists of large aromatic leaves, either purple or green in colour, that have a distinctive scent and flavour. When served raw with sushi or sashimi, shiso is said to prevent food poisoning because of its antiseptic qualities. Other medicinal tendencies include anti-inflammatory powers with illnesses such as allergies, colds, and arthritis. Otherwise, shiso leaves are used with pickled plums or in tempura and soups. Try adding this lovely herb to salads,egg sandwiches, or in sauces such as pesto or gremolata.
Mitsuba is a flavourful type of parsley with a crispy texture and a refreshing scent. Added as a garnish to savory custard dishes, soups, and sashimi, it is also used whole in tempura or salads. Mitsuba can be used whenever a stronger tasting parsley is needed.
Kaiware is a type of radish sprout with a hot peppery flavour like watercress. Useful as a spicy garnish, it is excellent in sandwiches, stirfries, and sushi.
Sansho is a pretty herb with a dainty balanced design that is a good seasoning for soups and fish dishes, in particular eel specialties. With its refreshing mint like flavour, sansho is a popular flavour enhancer in Japan. Although somewhat bitter in taste, chrysanthemum leaves are often added to hot pot dishes and stirfries. The flowers are infused to make a celebratory herbal tea served on special occasions like weddings.