Toyama, the most kombu usage in Japan, has a unique ways of using kombu and we will introduce you how they use them.
First, preserving food using kombu.
Most poplar way for kombu to be used in Toyama is kobu-jime. It’s often called kombu cured fish in English and used for perishable fishes by wrapping fish with a kombu. Wrapping fish with kombu makes water in the ingredients drain just like salt, making available to store for much longer time than raw fish. On top of longer shelf life, it makes raw fish much better taste. Kombu drains out excess water, making crisp texture, and umami from kombu is transferred to the fish. Thus, making it unique and different aftertaste compared to regular fish sashimi. Long before refrigerator were invented, this was common way to consume raw fish in Toyama.
Back in the days, kombu was used in many dishes. Though, they did not know what umami was, they knew it from experience that their kombu makes it much better tasting foods. Kombu is often used in pickles for it’s umami. Regular pickles usually turns pickles into plain salty or sour pickles but adding kombu gives a milder taste with its umami.
Japanese common food, fish cake also contains kombu in Toyama. Fish cake is whitefish processed into ground meat and steamed and can be found in many places. However, fishcake in Toyama is served with kombu.
Oden, Japanese traditional hot pot made with soy sauce based dashi broth, contains tororo kombu, a shaved kombu. Kombu adds more depth and mildness with regular dashi and smooth texture.
Other uses of kombu includes wrapping on rice balls instead of nori seaweed, ingredients for Japanese pancake.
Now days, it’s not rare to find these food products in convenience store all over japan, as the kombu getting re-evaluated.