Recipe: Perilla Seed Congee

[Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen]

Recipe: Perilla Seed Congee

by Yuan Wang, OMD

Warren Sheir and writer Mika Ono

perilla seed congee 1Congees (rice porridges) are a staple in East Asia. This congee features perilla seeds (a.k.a. Beefsteak plant seeds or “zi su zi” in Chinese), which are used in traditional Chinese medicine to ease coughs and asthma. The leaves and stems of the perilla plant are also featured in traditional Chinese medicine.

This recipe makes 2 servings.


  • 2 teaspoons (1/5 ounce or 5 grams) of perilla seeds
  • ¼ cup short-grain white rice
  • 2 ¼ cups of water
  • 2 green onions, cut into ¼-inch pieces, roots and tough tips discarded
  • Soy sauce or salt to taste
  • Condiments: grated fresh ginger, sesame oil, minced garlic, roasted nori seaweed (cut into ¼ x 1/8 inch strips), etc. (all optional)

Directions:perilla seed congee 3

1) Heat a dry frying pan over medium high heat. Add the perilla seeds and roast for about 60 seconds, shaking the pan the whole time. Be careful not to burn the seeds. The seeds are done when a nutty fragrance is released and the seeds are crunchy but not burnt. Immediately pour the seeds out of the pan and let them cool for at least a minute.

2) Put the seeds in a spice mill or coffee grinder and whir until powdery (for us, this took 5 to 10 seconds).

3) Add the ground perilla seeds, rice, and water to a small- to medium-size pot. Cover and bring to a boil.

4) Lower the heat to achieve a simmer and leave the lid slightly ajar to let a little bit of the steam escape. Stir occasionally to push the seeds that clump onto the sides of the pot back into the mixture and to make sure the rice is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 40 to 60 minutes or until the rice is soft and your congee is the desired consistency. Add more water if your congee is drying out; if there is too much water, remove the lid to boil off some of the water.

5) Spoon the congee into serving bowls and garnish with the green onions and any other condiments you desire. Add soy sauce to taste.

Themes and Variationsperilla seed congee

Different varieties of rice will require different cooking times and different amounts of water. If you prefer brown rice, for example, use 1/6 cup of rice and about 2 ¾ cups of water then cook for 1 ¾ to 2 hours.

Especially good for:

  • Anyone suffering from a cough or asthma.
  • For those familiar with Chinese medicine

Perilla seeds, which are considered pungent and warm, redirect the qi downward to treat coughing and wheezing, often when the patient has copious phlegm.

For the full blog entry, see Mika’s Adventures with Perilla Seeds .


Dr. Yuan WangYuan Wang, OMDgrew up in Sichuan Province, China, where she learned to cook by helping her mother and grandmother prepare meals for the extended family. Following her interest in traditional Chinese medicine and nutrition, Dr. Wang pursued a rigorous course of study and eventually became a lecturer, researcher, and physician-in-charge of several departments at the Chengdu Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital. Now a member of the faculty at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego and practitioner at The Source Chinese Medical Clinic in Poway, California, Dr. Wang finds that food tends to be a neglected area in Western medicine. Both in the clinic and in the classroom, Dr. Wang hopes to raise awareness about the importance of food for health and healing.
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