Perilla Powder Soups

April 13, 2022

Perilla leaves are a staple in Korean cooking but are mostly unfamiliar to non-Koreans (it is, however, similar to Japanese shiso). My grandma would grow perilla leaves and make a side dish of them marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, green onion and Korean chili powder (gochujaru). As a kid, I felt a deep sense of pride the day I could finally tolerate eating them and not being horrified by the flavor. It always felt like a grown up dish at the table since perilla is not a flavor that's very pleasing to kids: it’s a little bitter, earthy, nutty with notes of anise. But it’s the taste of home. 

While I wax poetic about perilla leaves, this post is actually about my discovery of perilla powder and its use in soups. Unbeknownst to me, Koreans use perilla seed powder in many soups. I first had it at a restaurant in the burbs of Chicago a couple years ago and have been dreaming of it ever since. 

Once I procured a bag of perilla powder (I found some at hmart and even at a local Asian market here in KC), I went in search of recipes to make with this new ingredient. The recipes that popped up were both soups. The addition of perilla powder to these soups make them thick and porridge-like. They were both comforting during the cold, winter months. Grinding up and substituting toasted sesame seeds could be your gateway to perilla powder but if you’re curious, snag a bag on your next trip to the Asian market. 

Vegan Perilla Powder Rice Cake Soup from HMartChewy rice cakes are always a welcome addition to Korean soups but this vegan soup was hearty and a great way to eat more veggies while enjoying a different spin on Korean Rice Cake Soup. 

Mushroom Perilla Powder Soup from Future NeighborThis earthy mushroom soup paired well with the nuttiness from the perilla powder. I used a gourmet mushroom mix which included oyster and beech varieties. I ate this with a bowl of rice but it would also taste great with fresh knife cut noodles (found in the freezer section of your local Korean grocery) or even rice cakes. 

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