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Jan 23, 2003 02:44 PM

umeboshi vs. ume shiso

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Yet another definition request:

Can anyone tell me what the difference is, assuming there is one?


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    Allie D'Augustine

    Umeboshi is a small salty pickled plum (one of my favorite things, that can be found in health food stores for some reason, is umeboshi vinegar -- I mostly drip drops on chicken prior to roasting). Shisho is an herby type leaf that I'm sure I've eaten, but I can't describe it to you firsthand. The internet tells me that it is like mint and basil. :)


    3 Replies
    1. re: Allie D'Augustine

      So, if I understand you correctly, the terms are by and large interchangeable...right?
      Thanks very much to you both!

      1. re: Allie D'Augustine

        Shiso is also known in this country as beefsteak plant (perilla frutescens). It is (or was)fairly commonly grown as an ornamental in SC. It's a member of the mint family. Although I like umeboshi, my personal opinion of the shiso leaf is that it tastes rather like chewing tobacco.

        1. re: sandy

          i have explored this before, and do not have a clear ready botanic explanation. but based on taste test at least 3 perilla varieties (or perhaps 1 or 2 varieties at extremes of growth cycle) are eaten, and are not at all the same. one type is commonly found in Korean markets in NYC and they bear only a very faint taste resemblance to the shiso generally eaten in Japan. The perilla leaf found in Korean markets (which I think I have also seen referred to as sesame leaf) is much tougher and has little or none of the fragrance. I do not think it is intended to be eaten raw, which is the most often use of the Japanse shiso.

      2. Umeboshi are Japanese pickled plums, brine-cured. They come whole or you can get it as a paste.

        The ones with shiso leaves say shiso in the name as well, and also come whole or as a paste.

        They are really closer to apricots than plums when fresh, I think. Whether whole or a paste, you can use in to fill a small seasononed sushi-rice ball. They're pretty sour/salty and a nice surprise.

        5 Replies
        1. re: lucia

          Apparently all umeboshi have shiso leaves in, which is what gives the red color. Ume (plum) + bo (sea salt) + shi (shiso). Some feature shiso on the label and others don't.

          There is something called ume shoyu, though, made with umeboshi, soy, mirin, and sake, used to dress chicken and other meats, like Allie does.

          1. re: lucia

            OK, folks, time to get the kanji dictionary out.

            well we all agree on ume, being an asian plum, kinda like a smaller harder apricot. but the written character used for boshi is actually hoshi getting inflected to boshi. from the verb hosu, to put out to dry. my dictionary says monohoshi is a frame for drying clothes, for example. sorry, i am not prepared to go into the reasons why and when h is inflect to b.

            curious usage with umeboshi since it is made by packing in salt and not putting out to dry.

            yes shiso is usually an ingredient, except for the cheaper one, like the shirakiku brand i think it is, that uses artifical flavorings and colorings. i might be wrong about which one is which. check the labels.

            dang, it kills me how expensive the good ones are, and then too often they have have been on the cooler shelf too long.

            as for ume shiso, sounds like a marketing name. one way to look at it is all with ume and shiso in it is pretty much guaranteed to be umeboshi, but all that is called umeboshi is not guaranteed to have shiso in it.


            1. re: wrayb

              Yep, that is the correct kanji. There are actually a few stages of drying involved in the making of umeboshi, though, oddly enough--in between being brined a few times, they get dried outside. I'm told by Japanese friends that there's no way of making umeboshi yourself unless you have lots of free time because you have to take them back inside at the first sign of rain (and of course, ume come into season during the summer, when precipitation levels are high). That's why I made my ume this summer into umeshu (plum liquor), but that's another story...

              I've never heard the actual pickled plum itself referred to in Japan as an "umeshiso"; I think this is only used when it`s in a prepared food with a fresh shiso leaf, such as an ume-shiso sushi roll.

              1. re: Rachel M.

                The picture is now lovely and clear. Many thanks to you all!

                Bonus round: See today's definition question.

                1. re: Rachel M.

                  a curse on you, Rachel, and your evocation of lush green fresh shiso leaf coned around rice holding a tender slush of umeboshi.

                  shiso, of course, can be found in NYC, but it seems to lack the dewy freshness and fragrance i remember finding so often in Japan.

                  [gnashing teeth in despair]


          2. In my experience, umeboshi is the umbrella term for japanese sour pickled plums, and ume shiso is one variety of umeboshi. Ume shiso are redder in color as the color of red shiso leaves impart a deep red color. Also, i could be wrong, but umeboshi seems to roughly translate as ume (plum) boshi (dried -- derived from hosu).


            1 Reply
            1. re: Eric Eto

              Aha—the plot, as is so often the case in food lore, thickens...

            2. I know this is tremendously late, but I found this thread while googling shiso ume pasta in the hopes of finding an English recipe, since my Japanese is so poor. Umeshiso is a paste sold in small tubes at the Japanese grocery store, a combination of ume paste and shisho leaves, and its a lovely purple color. Its fairlly sour and is used in sushi rolls and other recipes (grilled chicken, pasta, etc). Umeboshi is the plum that the paste is made from, so wihle the tste is similar they are definitely two different things.

              1 Reply
              1. re: greenraf

                For those that curse the expense of shiso and the stuff made with it.

                I often did the same.. then I bought seeds online and grew my own dang shiso in pots in my window.

                They are really hardy (I'm NOT a great gardener).