Perilla oil is flavorful and a loyal companion in Korean cooking – but what really makes it so special in this region?
South Korea presents such diversity with its cooking techniques and cuisines that it will literally take a few years to get to know them all, because there are regional variations, as well as unique takes in every province and city. But there are what we may call ‘universal constants,’ and one of these constants in Korean cuisine is perilla oil.
We’ve all cooked with the ubiquitous palm oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and even coconut oil. Coconut oil is extremely common in Asia and it’s touted as one of the miracle health oils.
The Chinese Basil
The same can be said of perilla oil, which is derived not from the more common crops like coconuts or palm, but from a tall plant that goes by the name of Chinese basil. This plant grows in different countries and can be found in China, India, and even Japan.
Perilla oil leaves behind a nutty flavor when used for cooking, and is considered a staple in Korean cooking, from frying to making cookies. But what makes perilla oil really special is not its taste or appearance, but its chemical composition.