Kombu seaweed is one of traditional Japanese ingredients and has been enjoyed for a long time. If you go back in time, kombu seaweed first appear on the text on Heian era (715AC). It said that Hokkaido have being sending kombu seaweed as a gift to government but it takes dozen of days just to transport them and how it’s been a hassle. Since kombu was only harvested at northern parts of Japan, it was rare resource and often used hold high monetary value at the time.
Moreover, it has been said that some of the Japanese castles were made using kombu seaweed. How did they build that stable building that lasted more than centuries? Obviously back in the time, they did not have any machinery and all were made by man. When building the firm stonewalls, they used log just like an Egyptian did to build a pyramids. The difference is that Japanese used kombu seaweed as a lubricant for the log. They soaked kombu in the water and put it on top of log to roll around. Some says that kombu culture flourished from re-using kombu that was used for building castles.
On our Kurakon homepage, we wrote that the Osaka was the commercial center of Japan. Osaka was called nonpareil kitchen during early Edo era (1600AD). That’s because all the supply was once collected to Osaka and re-distributed to nation wide so that all the supply could be obtained in Osaka. Since Osaka could get any ingredients at that time, food and economy flourished.
Even though Edo (Tokyo) was the capital at the time and political center of Japan, they did not have enough product force ability in Edo region to sustain all the population on early 1600’s since Edo government starts, Osaka and Kyoto was the capital of politics. On other hand, Osaka had many middle size cities nearby and all the commerce existed from previous eras. Therefore, all the domains had storage in Osaka and supplies were stored here. Especially kombu seaweed, good quality kombu seaweed was stored in high temperature and humid helped maturity, increasing umami. (Savory taste). Since then, we have many companies that handle kombu seaweed in Osaka area including us.
In Edo, Kombu seaweed did not adopted till late Edo era (around 1700AD). That’s because there was no water route developed from Pacific Ocean and water quality of Edo. Water in Edo was hard water, which is not suited for getting dashi stock out of kombu.
Even now, we can still find much different culture between Osaka and Tokyo such as different dashi stock for udon noodle.
Even though kombu seaweed have been used for a long time, there are lot of space to improve and full of possibilities.
In Japan, dashi stock such as kombu seaweed and bonito flakes were used for long time for the soup stock ingredients. In western world and other countries, soup stocks were developed that fits their culture such as French bouillon, Italian broth. This time, I would like to write about the uniqueness of Japanese dashi.
First of all, dashi stock is defined as an umami (savory tastes) extracted liquid made by cooking bones, meat, etc. I know, it doesn’t sound tasty at all just from the name of it. In a few words, it is said that Japanese dashi is subtraction of tastes and other soup stocks are addition of the tastes. Soup stocks in country other than Japan usually use many different ingredients at once and stew for long time to extract the different components of tastes such as fattening, gelatin and such. By doing so, soup stock will have complex and depth in their tastes.
Making chicken stock / WordRidden
On other hand, Japanese dashi stock only uses 2 ingredients at most. Whem making kombu seaweed dashi, kombu kelp is taken out from the water before it reaches to boil so that only umami is extracted. Even when two ingredients are used to make dashi, typically bonito or shiitake mushroom, which has low fat, is being used so that it will not distract the taste of umami yet adding the smell. Especially when ichiban dashi, famous for its clearness and scent, is made, bonito flakes are taken out of water within a minute after they have added so that only umami and scent is extracted.
Furthermore, whenever you make dashi or any type of boiling is involved in Japanese cuisine, scum is skimmed off so that only umami and nothing else is extracted. However, you would almost never skim out scum in soup stock out side of Japan because that is where all the palatable part is. Japanese food prefers s clarity and sharp umami even if it sacrifices depth and complexity. In western world to obtain complexity and depth in their tastes, more ingredients are added, but in Japanese dashi, it’s like a subtraction to extract umami.
Japanese cuisine has used wide variety of food and utilizes unique ingredients caused people to cook food that fits the climate. This caused unique dashi uses from other part of worlds.
Did you know you can make imitation eel that tastes and looks exactly like a real eel using kombu seaweed, tofu and tofu pulp? Eel is being enjoyed all over Japan as a traditional summer food to beat the heat but due to this price soar, many people will not be able to eat eel on a traditional eel day, Midsummer Day of the Ox. Recently in Japan, price soar of eel is hurting people’s dietary since price went up more than double in a year. Midsummer Day of the Ox is believed to be the one of hottest day and people consume eel due to rich vitamin A and B. This tradition of eating eel goes back to as long as 1700’s. At the time eating food name starting with U, such as Umeboshi (sour plum), Unagi (eel), and Uri (cucumber), on the Midsummer Day of the Ox help you not getting a heat exhaustion for the rest of the summer. In modern days, eel is the most common food eaten on the Midsummer Day of the Ox.
I found a news article that alleviates this problem. One food company developed an imitation eel as a substitute of real eel. Imitation eel is made by baking a special paste made of ground Pollack, tofu and “okara,” or pulp generated in the process of making tofu. For the skin, the firm used boiled kombu seaweed. I looked into this company and found that they made milt out of same ingredients as eel. Milt is considered a delicacy and very pricey due to its scarcity. Both eel and milt looks so real and can’t distinguish by just looking at a picture. Moreover, tofu, okara and kombu seaweed all contains rich in fiber and does not use any animal based ingredients so everyone can enjoy this product.
As an employee at kombu seaweed company, I would like to try some of this imitation eel and milt made out of kombu seaweed, but also develop a new product that everyone can afford and enjoy using healthy traditional foods.
鰻 / is_kyoto_jp
Here is the news source:http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120727f3.html
This is the company site that invented imitation eel and milt: http://www.japan-sfl.com/dev.html