5 Types Of The Most Consumed Seaweeds In Japan
Even people who aren't very familiar with Japanese food tend to have heard that seaweed plays a part in many of its dishes. This is true especially of traditional foods, like sushi rolls, rice balls, and even ramen, but do you know why?
For people whose diets do not normally or traditionally contain seaweeds (or sea vegetables, as they are now sometimes collectively called), or for people discovering Japanese cuisine for the first time, knowing the names and the difference between one type of seaweed and another can be daunting. So, let's have a look at four different kinds of seaweed eaten regularly in Japan, and learn how they're used.
Nori has been eaten in Japan since ancient times, but was originally consumed as a kind of paste.
It wasn't until the Edo period (in the 1750's) that the Japanese got the idea to process nori paste using papermaking methods – and so the form in which we know and enjoy it best today, was born!
You can find nori being used not only in sushi and onigiri, but also as a seasoning in noodle and soup dishes (like ramen), sprinkled on top of other dishes for decorative effect, or even packaged and sold as snacks!
Unlike in Wales, where aonori is used as a paste and fried, in Japan it is chiefly bought and used as a dried and powdered ingredient. Sprinkling aonori on your food releases its powerful aroma, and you can find it in Japan being sprinkled over favourites like yakisoba (noodles), takoyaki (octopus balls), used to flavour tempura, and even as a flavouring for potato chips!
Konbu is rich in umame (flavorfulness – actually, glutamic acid), and for this reason it is one of the main ingredients in Japan for making dashi (soup stock). Because it brings out the natural flavour of other ingredients, konbu dashi is widely used in Japan not just for making soups, but also for flavouring other dishes, especially sushi rice. It is generally sold in dried form for boiling into dashi, but you can also find it pickled in vinegar. Sometimes you will find it topping sushi, or chopped into fine strips and made into a very flavourful chilled side dish called tsukudani. Konbu has quite a chewy or gelatinous texture that can seem strange at first, but it is very delicious! Sometimes, you can also find a Japanese tea called konbucha, which is made from dried and powdered konbu.
Konbu has also received a lot of attention in recent years because scientists have discovered that by feeding it to a genetically modified form of e.coli, they can produce ethanol, which could be used as a biologically-sustainable fuel source, especially on boats.
It is eaten as a side dish, either by itself, or added to fish or vegetables, and is sometimes used to flavour rice for sushi.
Probably because of the anti-grey hair B vitamin which it contains, hijiki has been believed for hundreds of years in Japan to promote healthy and lustrous black hair.
So now that you have had a proper introduction to the delicious seaweeds that can be found in Japanese cooking, you can feel confident about trying them! Hopefully you will really enjoy them, and who knows, they may even make you feel healthier!
- Japanese food!!!!