A Small Amount Of Shiso Leaf Brings Big Flavor To Sandwiches, According To Owen Han - Exclusive

Food influencer Owen Han is a master of combining ingredients in new and exciting ways. In a recent collaboration with fellow content creator Nigel Kabvina, the pair created a breakfast sandwich made with soft scrambled eggs, chili oil mayo, glazed ham, and sauteed mushrooms, all topped with a surprising ingredient: shiso leaf. Shiso, which can also be called "perilla," is an herb in the mint family that offers a pungent flavor with hints of citrus, warm spice notes, a touch of anise, and a bitter edge. In this case, Han uses the leaf almost like lettuce in a traditional American sandwich, to add both flavor and texture. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Han told us how this small but mighty ingredient can make a significant impact on a sandwich.

Han noted that the shiso leaf's flavor is distinct, saying, "I don't really know how to explain it ... But if you've never had it before, just trying that bite, you'll see. You would be like, 'What am I tasting here?'" Not only is it a unique flavor, but it is also a prominent one. Because of this, Han uses just one or two leaves to achieve his desired effect, explaining that "just a small amount really adds a new flavor that is very distinct to that ingredient."

What, exactly, is shiso leaf?

Shiso is predominantly used in Southeast Asian cuisines. Owen Han was inspired by the Korean food he enjoys in his LA neighborhood; "I eat a lot of Korean food around here, so I drew that inspiration from that." Han's use of the shiso leaf as a sandwich ingredient in his collab with Nigel Kabvina is non-traditional but delicious, as it lends its bold flavor to the mildly soft eggs and balances the umami of the marinated mushrooms as well as the spiciness of the chili-oil mayo.

In Japanese cooking, shiso leaf is sometimes battered and fried as part of vegetable tempura, while it also acts as a garnish in many sushi dishes. Shiso's uses extend beyond the savory, though. Since it is part of the mint family, the herb is also used to highlight sweets such as ice cream, and you can even find it in place of mint in some cocktails.

Shiso leaves are much larger than herbs such as mint or cilantro: Each leaf is between two and four inches long with jagged edges and a vibrant green color. Additionally, the distinct flavor can be polarizing, with some people describing it as similar to the soapy taste that many experience when eating cilantro. For these reasons, if you start small with shiso leaf, then you can add a distinct and robust flavor without overwhelming the other elements of your sandwich.