Marinades are magic. There is nothing that makes you feel more like a competent adult than waking up with dinner basically made. And the marinade for my Ume Shiso Chicken is so easy-just blend up some pantry ingredients and let them do all the work of tenderizing and creating fresh, exciting Japanese flavor. This chicken may have started as a happy accident of trying to use up some ingredients hanging around in my fridge, but the results were so delightful that it is now on regular rotation. And when you see how quick and easy it is to make, Ume Shiso Chicken is going to be your weeknight dinner go-to as well.
This may be an unfamiliar ingredient to you, but it is an essential Japanese ingredient that has been enjoyed for centuries. Ume is a fruit that in English gets translated to plum, although the flavor is closer to that of apricots. These fruits are dried, salted, and cured to make umeboshi.
My aunts in Japan still make umeboshi the old fashioned way in the summer. The green plums are first air dried. Then the plums are packed into containers with sea salt, and often, sprigs of purple shiso leaves. Over time, the salty brine turns a vibrant red, which in turn dyes the plums a beautiful rosy color. They are mouth puckering sour and salty, yet at the same time fruity, and are used to flavor a variety of dishes from sauces and dressings to sushi and omusubi rice balls.
Ume plums are also used holistically to cure stomach aches and to aid in digestion. Whenever I had a stomach bug, I would be given an umeboshi dropped in some hot tea. This idea can also be turned into a simple meal of hot tea poured over rice topped with a salty tart umeboshi. Ochazuke as it’s known is humble, nourishing, and satisfying. Give it a try if you have some leftover umeboshi on hand.
Shiso is a Japanese herb known for its large jagged leaves and bright, refreshing flavor. Sometimes called Shiso mint, it is related to the mint family but has a more complex flavor. If you can’t find it, mint or even some sliced scallion make good substitutes. The generous sprinkling right before serving gives the dish incredible aroma and some fresh zing. And because umeboshi is typically cured with purple shiso leaves, you’re just boosting the flavor that’s already there.
Ume Shiso Chicken Marinade
Every good marinade has 3 essential elements; an acid for tenderizing, a fat to help it adhere, and seasoning to amp up the finished dish. For this marinade I use a neutral oil for the fat. Acidity is provided by the umeboshi and miso and mirin add tons of balanced umami flavor.
For this marinade to work its magic, it really needs to marinate for at least four hours, preferably overnight. I use chicken thighs because their higher fat content means tastier, juicier results, and they also stand up to a long marinating time without any breakdown in texture. If you plan on using chicken breasts. I would reserve a couple tablespoons of the marinade and only marinate the chicken for 4 hours. Then, while you are roasting the chicken breast, baste the chicken with some of the reserved sauce, or drizzle it on the chicken after it’s done cooking for the best flavor.
Make sure the chicken is fully coated by the umeboshi marinade before covering and refrigerating.
When the chicken is cooked through the only thing left to do is garnish. Don’t skip it because the fresh herb adds so much color and bright flavor. Shiso leaves are so large they are perfect for a fancy chef chiffonade:
Because you were so smart and marinated the chicken the day before, you now have time to make a nice side. Wild Mushroom Salad or Maple Miso Delicata are both amazing served alongside, and both can be prepared in the time it takes the chicken to cook. Adulting unlocked! Let me know what you serve Ume Shiso Chicken with by commenting below, or showing off your creation @funkyasiankitchen; we love hearing from you!
Ume Shiso Chicken
- Prep Time: 10 minutes (plus marinating time)
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: serves 4
- Category: Main
- Cuisine: Japanese
- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 6 umeboshi plums
- 1 Tablespoon white miso
- 1 Tablespoon mirin
- 1 Tablespoon neutral oil
- ¼ cup water
- 4 shiso leaves
- Take the pits out of the umeboshi plums and put them into a blender cup.
- Add the white miso, mirin, oil, and water. Blend with an immersion blender or in a standard blender until smooth.
- Put the chicken in a container and pour the marinade on top. Mix the chicken to thoroughly coat. Cover the chicken and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (you can also leave it overnight).
- Preheat the oven to 425. Put the chicken on an aluminum wrapped baking tray. Roast the chicken for 20-22 minutes until the juices run clear when poked in the middle with a knife or a thermometer registers 165.
- Shred the shiso leaves by stacking and rolling them up like a cigar and cutting through the leaves.
- Sprinkle the leaves over the chicken and serve immediately.
Keywords: ume plums, asian marinade, chicken dinner, quick chicken recipe, shiso, shiso mint