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Korean Banchan: Kkaennip Kimchi

August 23, 2012

The weekend before last, I ventured out in an accidentally-sporty two-door rental car (I made my girlfriend do the driving!) to visit a friend in Los Angeles.

I’m terrified of the Los Angeles area’s sometimes 10-lane highway situation, so I usually avoid the place at all costs, but this was my oldest childhood friend who had moved to LA a full year ago, and I had yet to go visit…

As it turns out, she lives in Koreatown!

If you just thought “Uh oh,” you were right… We spent one whole morning in a giant Korean grocery store, and I spent $120 on nostalgic foodstuffs (and a dolsot– stone bowl– for bibimbap!) that I DIDN’T NEED.

Then I was very indulgently humored as we enjoyed a Korean lunch and, later that evening, went out for a Korean dinner. (I skipped taking photos, since I figured I’ve posted enough photos of Korean restaurant food from Seoul!)

One of my most exciting purchases came from the produce section; bundles of fresh kkaennip (perilla leaves) were stacked into pointy green mountains.

Bundles of ten leaves each, selling at 3 for $1. How could I pass that up?

Kkaennip Kimchi, these seasoned spicy leaves, which many people call “sesame leaf kimchi,” is actually not made from sesame leaves, but from perilla leaves. (Though, like many Korean dishes, it does call for sesame oil and sesame seeds.) It’s not the most common dish, even in Seoul, but whenever I got a chance to try it, I was taken with the very strong, herby, shiso-like* flavor of the leaves, brightened up by the distinct kimchi tang of garlicky chili paste.


When I first got back from living in Korea in 2008, I went on a (similarly extravagant) Korean food shopping spree somewhere in Oakland, CA., but fresh kkaennip were nowhere to be found.

Instead I bought several sardine-can-like tins of kkaennip– both this spicy kimchi version, and a non-spicy one– and then hoarded saved half of them until past their expiration date. Oops.

Now, at least, you can understand my excitement to discover fresh perilla leaves in LA!

So I’m happy to present you with Korean Banchan, Part 2 (of my infinite-part series, as Stephen Colbert might say). Take a look at Korean Banchan, Part 1: Spicy Sesame Bean Sprouts if you’re interested.

And if spicy kimchi side dishes are not your cup of tea, but you’d still like to experience the unmistakable and pungent flavor of fresh perilla leaves, you can always skip this recipe and try wrapping them around some warm rice and stir-fry or grilled meat with a generous dab of ssamjang! But that’s another blog post…

Jjukkumi (spicy grilled baby octopus) wrapped in a perilla leaf. Seoul, 2009.

Meanwhile, I’m just grateful to be able to share this recipe with you at all. I was so so worried that my precious little bunches of kkaennip would not survive the crazy 90-100 degree LA area temperatures that I kept them by my side– and out of the hot car– all weekend. They went into my friend’s fridge in LA, then the next day came with me into a coffee shop, another friend’s house, and a Target. But the perilla leaves made it! And I made kkaennip kimchi.

* Japanese Shiso and Korean Kkaennip are both varieties of Perilla, though the kkaennip leaves are much larger than most shiso leaves.

Print this recipe.


Kkaennip Kimchi

(Makes 8-10 servings as a side dish)

~ 30 perilla leaves (they often come in bunches of 10)
~ 2 cloves garlic, pressed
~ 1- 1 1/2 Tbsp. ginger, grated or minced
~ 1 – 1 1/2 Tbsp. coarse kochukaru (Korean chili powder)
~ 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
~ 2 Tbsp. water
~ 2 tsp. sesame oil
~ 1 tsp. sugar
~ 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
~ 1-2 scallions or buchu (garlic chives), chopped

How to make it:

1. Gently rinse each perilla leaf, and spread the leaves out to dry. I spread them out between paper towels and they dried very quickly. (You can leave the stems on the perilla leaves, but I trimmed just a tiny bit– about 1/2 an inch– off the bottom of each stem.)

2. Toast the sesame seeds, either in a pan on the stove, or in a toaster oven, just for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Press the garlic and grate the ginger.

Did you know that when you toast sesame seeds for too long,
they jump and crack open like popcorn? I just learned this!

3. Make the kimchi paste: In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, kochukaru (chili powder), soy sauce, water, sesame oil, sugar, and sesame seeds. (You can reserve some of the chili powder if you’re not sure you want to use it all. You can also add a bit of extra water to stretch the paste a bit.) Optionally stir in some chopped scallions or buchu as well.

4. Make sure each perilla leaf is clean and patted dry. In a large tupperware container, or simply on a plate, spread a bit of the kimchi paste– very thinly and evenly– over the top surface of the first leaf. Layer a second leaf on top. Continue to stack these perilla leaf “sandwiches,” spreading the kimchi paste across the top of every other leaf.

(If you have extra kimchi paste in the end, you can always lift the leaves by their stems and spread the extra paste onto the layers in between the “sandwiches” too.)


5. Chill in the fridge for at least a few hours before eating. Serve as a banchan side dish to a main course, or over warm rice for a satisfying snack.

6. Store the leaves flat in the fridge, either in a large tupperware container or in plastic wrap. They will keep for up to a week.

Print this recipe!

Related posts:
> Travel Photos: Bibimbap and Banchan in Korea
> Korean Banchan: Spicy Sesame Bean Sprouts
> Broiled Bulgogi Chicken

34 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2012 9:27 am

    Oooh! Thanks for sharing. It brings back memories of Seoul. Thank you!

    • August 23, 2012 9:45 am

      You’re welcome! I know the feeling– I was transported back to Seoul just by the distinct kkaennip flavor; it was such a rare find for me in the states!

      • August 24, 2012 5:13 am

        I’m near San Francisco…wonder if I can find any there…
        And thanks for the clarification on what that leaf is…I’d always been told sesame or something to that effect. Good to finally know!

      • August 24, 2012 9:00 am

        You should try; I bet you could! I know there are many Korean grocery stores, large and small, in the bay area… I can’t remember the name of the huge one my friends brought me to in Oakland– and I don’t remember them having fresh kkaennip leaves anyway– but maybe it’s a seasonal thing, and it would be easier to find them in more stores in this part of the summer?

  2. August 23, 2012 9:33 am

    ohhh…. I can polish off a big bowl of rice with Kkaennip Kimchi. Allison, everyone NEEDS a dolsot. It’s just tragic that I don’t have one. Now you can make dolsot bibimbop anytime you want. You can probably make jigaes in it too!

    • August 23, 2012 9:50 am

      Haha, Sarah, okay you’re right! So it wasn’t a splurge to finally buy the dolsot that I NEEDED… Although I have to tell you, I think I’ll mostly/only use it for bibimbap because I didn’t actually need one to make jjigaes– I already bought a ttukpaegi bowl on that trip to Oakland a few years back!

  3. August 23, 2012 12:50 pm

    Your recipe is a good example of why a Korean meal is my favorite ecosystem. It’s filling, healthy, and things that one might find unusual and/or forlorn at a street market really come together to showcase Korean cuisine. One problem- when you don’t have shiso, what do you do?

    • August 23, 2012 5:12 pm

      True; Korean cuisine is wonderful! And I don’t know… I guess either buy those sardine-can-esque tins of pickled kkaennip or try to grow your own? :)

  4. August 23, 2012 12:59 pm

    These look so exotic and delicious my friend, absolutely loving the post about them! :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  5. August 23, 2012 1:52 pm

    I am the same way whenever I go to a Korean market! I can’t stop buying things and I really have to use my control skills… to stop buying so many things! Love ketnip! This post reminds me that I should make some of these soon!

    • August 23, 2012 5:14 pm

      I know it’s horrible how much I wanted to buy… luckily I really couldn’t buy too many things that needed to be refrigerated (or anything frozen) since they wouldn’t have made it back with me… but I still wanted to buy so many kitchen supplies/foods. (And the sad thing is that I thought I did a pretty good job– until I saw the final tally at the checkout counter!)

  6. August 23, 2012 2:40 pm

    Oh, man. This is one of my favorite banchan…..

    • August 23, 2012 5:15 pm

      It’s one of mine too, even though, in my experience at least, it’s not the most common one!

      • September 6, 2012 2:01 pm

        I’ve only had it with my ex gf’s parent’s house, or from the Korean famer who sells beef at the famer’s market – she sometimes has extra, treat-y banchan for those of us who buy her bulgolgi all the time.

      • September 6, 2012 9:14 pm

        Nice! There are no Korean products or banchan at the farmer’s market around here, but I am a pretty regular customer at the little Korean market in town and I WISH they would give me some extra treat-y banchan on occasion! :)

  7. August 23, 2012 3:28 pm

    Wait, are perilla and shiso not the same thing? I’m glad you made it through the LA traffic. :)

    • August 23, 2012 5:20 pm

      Yes! I mean, kind of! I realized I made a confusing comment about the “shiso-like” flavor of kkaennip above in the post… As far as I know, both shiso and kkaennip are types of perilla, but the Korean one comes from a bigger-leaf variety of the plant than does most of the shiso typically found in Japan. (Also I actually DO know where to get fresh shiso in town, but they really are much smaller than these so-called “sesame leaves,” and they’ve never called out to me to turn them into kkaennip kimchi, like the larger ones in LA immediately did…)

    • August 23, 2012 5:21 pm

      Oh and I meant to tell you– I tried to go to a Michoacan-type Paleteria in LA. I google-mapped it, and had my friend drive us all the way there, but it turned out to just be a corner store selling the same pre-wrapped-in-plastic awesome whole-fruit Mexican-style popsicles that you can buy at almost any corner store in LA I guess… It was perfect popsicle weather, though, and we still really enjoyed it! (We tried: tamarind, horchata, and cucumber chile popsicles :)

      • August 23, 2012 8:47 pm

        You can get those at any corner store in LA? I’m so jealous!!!

      • August 24, 2012 8:56 am

        According to my girlfriend at least… yes you can! At first I thought that the corner store (called Paleteria La Michoacana) that we went to really was affiliated with the place you’d recommended– and that they’d shipped in plastic-packaged popsicles from one of their other real locations, but then my girlfriend claimed that the popsicles they sold there could be found all over LA, and sure enough, 100 yards away, we found the same popsicles in another corner store.

        Now I have even more of a love (food) / hate (traffic) relationship with LA!

  8. August 23, 2012 5:22 pm

    Looks beautiful…never heard of kkaennip…but love kimchi…

    • August 23, 2012 5:32 pm

      Thanks! Maybe you’ll find some room on your farm next summer to try growing a little bit of shiso or kkaennip!

      • August 23, 2012 9:33 pm

        We may be able to do that…we’ve talked about shiso…so maybe both?

      • August 24, 2012 8:58 am

        I’d say go for it! (What I may have made unclear in my post above is that the smaller-leaf Japanese shiso and the larger-leaf Korean kkaennip leaves are both varieties of perilla.)

  9. August 27, 2012 7:01 am

    I have never heard from this type & kind of food before. I learned something new! :)
    It sure looks more then edible! ;)

    • August 27, 2012 8:23 am

      I’m glad to be able to share this wonderful Korean dish with people who hadn’t heard of it before! I hope you get to sample it sometime soon :)

  10. August 29, 2012 8:14 pm

    How fantastic! I was just reading an article about L.A.’s Koreatown. It’s got to be fate: clearly, I am meant to make Korean food.

  11. September 5, 2012 8:05 pm

    This is an excellent idea. I have some shiso left and it will be a nice way to save it. My daughter is here with us and having some cravings for kimchi: this looks very interesting.

    • September 5, 2012 10:16 pm

      This sounds like a perfect way for you to use your shiso then! The kkaennip leaves are a little bit larger than typical shiso leaves, so you might need less kimchi paste total, or just spread it on a little thicker– it should be good either way!


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