East / West / Whole / Raw / Plants /

ABOUT SHISO Delicious

Photography: Rose de Larrabeiti with Shiso Delicious

Who is Sara?

Sara Kiyo Popowa aka Shiso Delicious is on a mission to find beauty and sustainability on every level in life: in how we eat and prepare our food, how we view ourselves and our earth and how we choose and dispose of the products we use every day.

Currently residing in London and born in Sweden with a Japanese-Bulgarian heritage, Sara's food is always motivated by getting the most nourishing results in the fastest, most low-impact way possible. Through social media, events and workshops Sara inspires thousands of people daily with her unique approach to food and ingredients.

Shiso Delicious brings together elements of Sara's journey to date: as a performance / visual artist, a graphic designer for the health food industry and a member of several food or art-centred communities.

For enquiries regarding photography commissions or social media collaborations, please contact alice@social-pictures.com

Contact Sara here.

What is Shiso?

Shiso Delicious | Bio pic - Shiso leaf in the garden | www.ShisoDelicious.com

You may already know the Japanese herb Shiso. If you’ve eaten at a sushi restaurant you may have been served the bright green, fringed leaf as part of your plate decoration. Or you may have felt the taste of red Shiso in umeboshi, salt pickled plums. Shiso’s flavour is difficult to describe but to me it tastes like ‘Japan’. 

How to describe what Japan tastes to me? I was born in Sweden with half my roots from Japan and the other from Bulgaria. I spent childhood in Sweden rummaging around my grandparents garden in summer and dragging my skis to school for PE in winter and didn't know anything about Japan – apart from that it was very far away and that people ate with chopsticks there... (pre-internet as you probably guessed!)

As a student I finally got the chance to explore Japan, study the language and culture for three years and immerse myself as much as I could in my new ‘home country’. And this of course meant eating lots! During this time I stayed with a few Japanese families who showed me so much kindness and generosity – not just in feeding me home cooked meals everyday, but even making me bentos (packed lunches). 

Shiso Delicious | Bio pic - growing up in Sweden amongst the garden elves | www.ShisoDelicious.com

WHAT ABOUT THE WAY I EAT?

Fast forward quite many years and I live in London with my husband A. Japan always stayed with me as a preference for eating – not much wheat, dairy or oil and using a palette of clean, savoury-sweet flavours. To this, I’ve added minimally processed, refined sugar free, whole and mostly organic plant-based food. 

'Plant-based' as I see it, is using everything that comes from the plant kingdom as the bulk of my diet plus occasional foods of animal origin. (Please see below for details of what I use or don’t use in the recipes on this site)

But, even if I say ‘no refined sugar’ I will never, ever turn down my mother’s apple crumble, or a dessert made by my sister- or mother-in-law! However, knowing what I thrive on best (and that’s not sugar-laden sweets), I will do all I can to choose what will make me feel good and not ‘sabotage’ the hard-earned balance I’m enjoying now.

My food journey has taken me through many highs and lows and in the process I have understood that the only balance is the one I find for myself. Everybody is different, with different stories, and our bodies and needs keep changing throughout our lives. To learn how to listen to what our body tells us and be gentle and accepting of these messages is one of the best gifts we can give our selves – and it’s a gift without end. Keep alert, keep listening and acting upon what you hear and your body will respond with being the best it can. This is my experience.

You can read more about my food journey here:

Shiso Delicious Interview on Living Minnaly Blog

Interview at My Messy Eatery's blog.

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AND WHAT ABOUT SHISO IN THE END?

Shiso is not something you find in any old London shop and if you do, it’s a speciality food with a speciality price tag and so I never made food using Shiso while living here.  

A couple of years ago I went back to Japan for the first time in over a decade. Being there with the life experience I had gathered since my first stay gave me a feeling of my life pieces falling into place. No, I’m not 'Japanese’ but certain parts of my nature are, and I could finally see how that could be a beautiful thing. 

Amongst what I brought back from the trip was a bento box (lunch box) and a packet of Shiso seeds…  

Since last year we have a garden, and my Shiso plants are thriving! Also, since last year I’ve been posting images of my food to Instagram. Because of my positive experience there, this website came into being ... and I realised that I want to pour my creativity into 'food'. So, as my Shiso plants grew, so did my vision. Thank you Shiso. 

And thank YOU for reading my story. 

Much love, 

Sara 

Portrait photography on this page: Rose de Larrabeiti

Portrait photography on this page: Rose de Larrabeiti

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ABOUT THE RECIPES ON THIS WEBSITE

All my food choices are based on what I have worked out to have a good effect on my body over the years. Everybody is different but in my opinion anyone’s health would benefit from eating much less processed foods, refined sugar (and all products containing it), wheat, dairy and meat than what is considered ’normal’ in today's western society. My own diet is based on whole plant foods with small amounts of animal products. 

My food journey is ongoing, so what you read here now may be changed or added to in time. 

None of my recipes contains meat.

If my recipes contains dairy (milk products), it is as an option on the side. 

None of my recipes contains refined sugar. To sweeten, I use natural whole dates, coconut palm sugar or nectar, honey, agave or maple syrup.

To me, it's more important that I eat foods low in sugar, dairy, wheat and processed ingredients than that I eat a fully 'vegan diet'. I don't like to attach labels or draw up borders around myself. The only constant in life is change, and the best teacher is learning to listen to yourself ;)

None of my recipes contains wheat apart from if it's listed as an option e.g. udon noodles. 

Some of my recipes contain spelt, rye or barley (grains which contain gluten)

None of my recipes contains soya products that are not traditionally prepared. This means I DO use tofu, miso, tamari etc. but I DON’T use soya milk, soya cream, soya mince, soya spreads etc.

None of my recipes contains 'meat replacers' like quorn, veggie mince etc.  

None of my recipes contains margarine.

Some of my recipes use eggs – I always use free range, organic eggs and I always try to buy them from a small producer, like at my local farmers' market.

Some of my recipes use honey but I will always list a suggestion to swap this for another whole natural sweetener like coconut palm sugar/nectar or maple syrup. I always buy my honey from small scale producers and if possible, organic and Fairtrade.

Many of my recipes contain tree nuts and cashews, sesame seeds, coconut, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and other nuts and seeds. I rarely use peanuts.

Many of my recipes use oats – I use jumbo oats (UK); rolled oats.

All of my recipes are based on non- or minimally processed single ingredients like fresh vegetables, fresh and dried fruits and berries, cold pressed oils, nuts, seeds, seaweeds, whole and polished rice, whole grains, pulses, dried and fresh spices and herbs, honey, tree syrups, nut and seed butters.

The processed ingredients in my recipes are as far as possible produced traditionally and/or naturally, i.e only containing ingredients I know and that I would be happy to eat on their own – and the fewer ingredients the better. Examples of the processed foods I use are: Tofu, miso paste, tamari and other soya sauces, umesu (salt pickled plum seasoning), vinegars, noodles, puffed whole grains, freeze dried and dehydrated fruit powders, frozen berries and fruit, baking powder, mustard and traditionally preserved produce like olives, capers, lemon and sun dried tomatoes. 

I get most of my fresh produce from my local farmers' market. The majority of the ingredients and products I use are either organic, locally produced or Fairtrade. But I'm also happy to use non-organic produce because we live in a modern world and I like variety, and I'm not made of money ;) When the season is right I use home-grown vegetables and herbs.

Shiso Delicious | Shiso plants in the garden | www.ShisoDelicious.com