Thighs: onion, umeboshi and shiso

Salty sour umeboshi sparks the musky mysterious shiso most suitably with chicken.

The first time I encountered this combination was in 2008, with Ms. Shimbo’s recipe for Sasami no Ume-shiso (Chicken Breast Fillets on Skewers with Pickled Plum and Shiso). That is a recipe I’ve made regularly, though the process of slitting the tender fillets to stuff with the ume/shiso paste is tedious and tricky.

A reader inspired a version, which is simpler: flatten chicken breasts, spread with the ume/shiso paste, roll, grill, and slice. Tori no Ume-shiso (Chicken Breast Rolls with Pickled Plum and Shiso) works so well it appears often on the menu.

This recipe is an interesting variation of the classic combination. By adding sauteed onions to a paste made with umeboshi and shiso, the flavor becomes richer, a little like a French sauce. This chicken is roasted in the oven so it’s easy to prepare, but tastes as if you spent hours in the kitchen.

I found this recipe online; I’m happy to introduce you to Eric Gower, author of The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen

Author and chef Eric Gower artfully uses staple ingredients and seasonings from Japanese cooking – like edamame, shiitake, ginger, and soy sauce – in his own unique contemporary style. His dishes are born of a passion for good home-cooked food and experimentation over fifteen years spent living in Japan.

Onion Baked Chicken Thighs with Shiso and Umeboshi
adapted from: The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen by Eric Gower
serves 3 to 4

  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 Tablespoons for the sauce, plus additional for the baking dish
  • 1 large onion, chopped well
  • sea salt
  • fresh coarsely ground black pepper
  • 10 umeboshi, pitted
  • 20 shiso leaves (or a good bunch cut from the top of your garden shiso), chopped
    plus some chiffonaded leaves or tiny pairs of growth tips for garnish
  • ½ cup sake
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1½ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into strips about 1-inch by 3-inches

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, heat 3 Tablespoons of the olive oil, add the onion, and liberally salt and pepper. Saute until soft, about 10 minutes.

Place the onion in a mini food processor. Add the umeboshi, shiso, and 2 Tablespoon of the olive oil, and blend (also add as much sake and water as the blender needs to do its work). Reserve about ⅓ of this mixture.

Mr. Gower has the cook brown the chicken thighs. But as they are skinless, I didn’t see the point. Without fat, browning won’t add much flavor. IMO!

Toss the chicken with ⅔ of the sauce.

With a paper towel, smooth some olive oil to a baking dish, arrange the chicken in a single layer, and cover loosely with foil. Bake about 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Arrange the chicken pieces on a plate. Add the reserved sauce to the baking pan, then return it to the oven for another few minutes before serving.

Spoon the sauce over the arranged chicken. Garnish with the chiffonaded shiso. Serve. Warm or at room temperature.

Note: cooking some of the sauce with the chicken, then adding the reserved fresh sauce to it is a clever way to have two layers of flavor in the dish.

7 thoughts on “Thighs: onion, umeboshi and shiso

    • Hi Allison,

      We are hosting a sort of family reunion dinner at the end of this month and this is a top contender for the menu. People coming in on planes, jet lag and all, this recipe is fantastic served hot, but just as good if folks want to just nosh. More substantial than an hors d’oeuvres, and accommodating to a buffet service. Familiar but just that right exotic. Can be eaten on small plates in hand so people can move around and converse…

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