My cookbook, KANSHA: Celebrating Japan's Vegan & Vegetarian Traditions (Ten Speed Press, 2010) provides a solid foundation to the principles and practice of kansha in the kitchen and at table. This workshop page enables me to guide you further.  ENJOY! 


Red Shiso 赤紫蘇 aka-jiso

 Aka-jiso, literally “red shiso,” is a dark purple variety of ao (green) shiso, an herb that is vaguely reminiscent of mint and basil. Old-fashioned Japanese kitchen wisdom speaks of the naturally occurring, anti-bacterial properties of aka-jiso leaves and the liquid that can be extracted from them. Leaves are used when pickling uméboshi plums, tinting them a dusty rose hue. In turn, a fruity plum aroma is transferred to the leaves and tart brine.

NOTHING GOES TO WASTE in the kansha kitchen: the leaves that remain after pickling plums are dried and pulverized to make an aromatic salt called yukari or yukari-jio. Yukari imparts a slight sweet-and-sour tang to foods and is often mixed with rice in the summer because it retards spoilage.

Plums (umé) ready for pickling with a bundle of red shiso leaves ready to be salt-cured.
Uméboshi (pickled plums) air-drying with salt-cured aka-jiso leaves.

ゆかりYUKARI (Red Shiso-Flavored Salt)

Makes a generous tablespoon:

1 tablespoon salt-cured aka-jiso (red shiso) leaves left from pickling plums


10 flat leaves of salt-cured aka-jiso

When rice is served at room temperature, as it is in obentō, it is often pressed into a mold to shape it. Here the rice logs are meant to evoke images of tawara, bundles of freshly harvested rice laying in the field.
Want to try your hand at shaping rice? Download this set of instructions that explains how to use a maku no uchi rice mold.
Blot excess moisture from the moist, salt-cured aka-jiso leaves with several layers of paper towels. The magenta color is a natural but intense dye. Be careful with clothing, fingertips, and cutting boards. If you have a dehydrator use it, according to the instructions that came with the machine, to dry to the leaves. When dry, crush the leaves to a fine powder.

If you do not have a dehydrator, you can achieve similar results with a microwave oven. Spread the moist leaves on a flat glass plate, or other non-reactive surface, that is microwave safe. Cook at high heat (500-600 watts) for 2 minutes. Flip the leaves over and repeat for 1 minute. Continue to zap in the microwave at 20 to 30 second intervals, flipping the leaves over each time to ensure even exposure of all surfaces. When the leaves are thoroughly dry, crush them. Sift the crushed mass through a strainer to eliminate unwieldy stem and other pieces.

Note: Commercially prepared yukari is available. Products that are labeled yukari are ready to use, as is. However, MOST commercial preparations contain chemical preservatives or seasoning agents other than salt. Check the label carefully. Similarly, when making your own yukari from the moist leaves in commercially prepared pickled plums, be sure that the plums have not been dipped in honey or other sweeteners.