Shiso Pickled Cucumber

Shiso is one of my favourite herbs, one that I first encountered in Japanese cuisine (which is where its name comes from). In this straightforward recipe from Mark Diacono’s Herb: A Cook’s Companion cucumber is quick-pickled with shiso, vinegar, sugar and a few additional flavourings to create a light condiment or side to a wide range of dishes.

Shiso PIckled Cucumber

Also known as perilla, shiso is a member of the huge Lamiaceae (mint and sage) family of plants, though its flavour is quite distinct from the rest – to me it tastes like a cross between mint, basil and tarragon (or perhaps aniseed) whereas Mark describes shiso’s taste as cumin and mint. The purple-leaved variety is most common, but there are also green and variegated varieties which can also be used; however using the purple shiso adds a lovely pinkish hue to the pickle.

Shiso Pickled Cucumber

Shiso’s flavour – all soft cumin and mild mint – pairs beautifully with cucumber, in salads, shrubs and here in this quick pickle. Its crêpe paper texture is best softened by fine slicing – a good chiffonade – which also helps release its flavour quickly into the vinegar for the cucumber to pick up. And if you use the deep purple variety, expect slow clouds of pink to transform the colour of the vinegar.
Author Mark Diacono


  • 480 ml 16fl oz white wine vinegar
  • 85 g 3oz caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • a few thin slices of ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 thin red chilli, sliced lengthways and deseeded
  • 1 good-sized cucumber, peeled and cut into 3mm (1∕8 in) half moons
  • 8 large leaves of shiso, rolled and thinly sliced


Have a sterilized jar ready.


  • In a pan, bring the vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns and ginger to a simmer, stirring to dissolve; simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Put the garlic, chilli, half the cucumber and half the shiso into the jar. Pour two-thirds of the vinegar in, add the rest of the cucumber and shiso and top with the remaining vinegar. Refrigerate once cool.
  • This should be excellent after a day, once the shiso loses a little pigment and flavour to the vinegar, and lasts for a week or so, after which the cucumber’s texture becomes a little gummy.

Read our full review of Herb by Mark Diacono, here.

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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Herb: A Cook’s Companion by Mark Diacono from publisher Quadrille (RRP £26). Recipe extracted with permission of publisher.

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