Recipe: Healthy Ume-Shiso Syrup

Cold and Flu Season: Not For You or Me!

By Amya Miller
February 14, 2020

Fuel your body with this super-healthy ume-shiso syrup, a recipe that might give you that little extra you needed to tackle your seasonal cold

I thought about giving you a Valentine’s Day recipe and decided, especially in light of the virus scare we’re all reading about, health would be the theme of the month!

I need to first offer a disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and as such cannot claim this syrup will prevent or cure a cold or flu. What I can say is both ume (pickled plums) and shiso (perilla leaf) are considered home-remedies to ward off colds in Japan. I simply added them together!

I’m a big fan of ume-shiso maki (Try it if you haven’t!). Most sushi restaurants I’ve been to are offering it and if they don’t, they’ll usually make it right away when asking. Hence, ume and shiso is a proven combination.

Ume Shiso Syrup Recipe

Shiso‘s taste is, in my opinion, part basil and part mint. It’s the green leaf you’ll see on your sashimi plate beneath the white fish, it has a bit of a kick to it which I find lovely. Very refreshing, a bit sharp. Add this to the pickled ume, the combination is absolutely delightful. 

Umeboshi is the sour, pickled pink plum found in onigiri and bento box lunches. Friends insist I stock my refrigerator with loads of them in the summer — it evidently fights off natsu-bate (summer weariness due to heat and humidity) — the perfect multi-purpose plum!

Ume Shiso Syrup Recipe

I made a syrup out of both of these very healthy ingredients, boiling it down until it became a concentrated liquid. It will need diluting unless you’re up for a strong jolt and I might recommend mixing it with soda water or even just water! If you go with water, I recommend mixing one part syrup to four parts water.

I also like it heated — it is really versatile! Maybe even try a splash of vodka? An ume-shiso martini, anyone?


  • 1 liter (four cups) water
  • 50 shiso leaves
  • 6 umeboshi (large)
  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar


  1. Dissolve the umeboshi into smaller pieces with a fork or chopsticks.
  2. Mix all the ingredients into a large pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Boil for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and steep.
  4. Remove the shiso leaves and umeboshi. Strain.
  5. Dilute to taste.

This is a strong drink, filled with powerful Japanese aromas! And while I can’t promise this will keep you from getting sick this winter, it’s full of A and C vitamins, calcium, potassium, iron, and the list goes on.

By all means, I hope your Valentine’s Day is special. And since White Day is a thing in March, I’ll try to whip up a recipe worthy of making and giving. Stay healthy, everyone!

Using this recipe? Share your photos with us via Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #savvytokyorecipe

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