Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Amazing Edible Seaweed

What classic vegetarian combination resembles seafood so strongly that it acts as a stand in? Would it help if the CC provided the clue that this is the one thing that the Japanese and the Welsh have in common?

The answer is  nori — "laver" in English but today, everyone just refers to it by its Japanese name.

The combination of nori and soy sauce is legendary. It rivals other classic combinations for sheer force because it ticks off all the right notes — salty, umami, seafood-y except that it is vegetarian.

Years ago, when talk of radioactive "dirty bombs" were all the rage in New York, people at the CC's dinner party were talking about stockpiling "iodine pills". The CC just scoffed, "Just come over. I'll cook with nori. That's got more iodine in a sheet than any pill." The CC stands by that statement. If you're gonna die, you might as well have a good time doing it.

It's also very "Japanese". The combination of nori and soy sauce over rice is one of the most-frequently requested items on bento boxes. Apparently, it's so "alien" that non-Japanese can't appreciate it. The first time the CC ordered it, the delivery boy claimed that the CC must've made a mistake and couldn't possibly have ordered this dish. After the CC told him to "fuck off!" in extraordinarily polite Japanese (= "does your head hurt?" = "are you stupid?"), he was charmed. Broad grins ensued as exemplified by the classic bonding moment of bumping fists. Such is the beauty of swearing in a foreign language as done in the context of a genuine appreciation of food.

Nori Tsukudani (海苔佃煮)


10 sheets nori

1 cup dashi

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp mirin

sesame seeds/sesame oil (only when serving)

Note 1: This is like a pickle or a preserve, You can make it fresh but it will last for a long time because of "osmotic pressure" and salt. The Japanese would just make a small batch and leave the rest in the fridge for later.

Note 2: This is seriously intense. A small portion goes a very long way. You'd place a small amount on top of a mound of white rice. It's a classic breakfast "power dish".

Note 3: The sesame or sesame oil are added at the last minute. You need one or the other for nutritional reasons. The CC prefers the seeds. They're easier to store.


Tear the nori into rough pieces. It doesn't matter much. Just cut it into squares if that's faster.

Bring the dashi to a boil. Add the nori and let it cook down. When the water is almost gone, add the rest of the ingredients and continue to cook until the liquid is almost gone.

It will last for a long time in the fridge. (You can halve this recipe too.)

Nori Sumashijiru (海苔すまし汁)


4 sheets nori

3 cups ichiban dashi
soy sauce

Note 1: The "home-style" recipe often contains a scrambled egg. It's then "nori tamago sumashijiru".

Note 2: If you've forgotten ichiban dashi (literally: first dashi) is the stuff that is made first. It should be completely clear which is part of the charm. The crystal clear broth contrasting with the black seaweed.

Note 3:  Ideally, you should use clear soy sauce for this as well. It's a visual thing. The CC assumes nobody here has it so just go ahead and use the regular stuff. Call it "home cooking" rather than "fancy cooking" and be done with it.


Oh, the recipe?

It's trivial.

Shred the nori. Heat the dashi. Mix and serve immediately.

Nori no Furikake (海苔の振り掛け)


4 sheets nori

1 tbsp sesame seeds
kosher salt

Note 1: This is rather painful and intense to do in a mortar and pestle but the coffee grinder makes mince out of it. You'll just have to do your best.

Note 2: The first time the CC made it for a friend, he was like, "This would be so amazing on popcorn." — "Yes, my good friend, yes, it would!"

Note 3: It's traditionally a sprinkle on "boring" white rice.


Pound the nori and the salt in a mortar and pestle. This is just painful painful work. It takes forever.

When crushed "sufficiently", add the sesame seeds and pound some more.

It stores forever in a tightly sealed container and ironically, it's easier to make in large quantities than in small ones.

1 comment:

Mark T. Kennedy said...

the best part is that you glow in the dark for a while after eating it! #fukushima :-)