Unique kombu uses in Toyama

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.


板ゆず。かまぼこと柚子胡椒。なるほど。 / ayustety


とろろおにぎり@永楽苑 / is_kyoto_jp

Toyama Prefecture and Kombu seaweed – the Biggest Kombu Consumer

Toyama Prefecture and Kombu seaweed
In next two articles, we will talk about Toyama, the most kombu seaweed consumption prefecture in Japan. Japanese cuisine is best known for its food and uses of kombu seaweed and most familiar to it. Most amount consumption in Japan means the best in the world.
Toyama Prefecture is located by the Japan Sea but Kombu can not be harvested in this region. Then how did Toyama prefecture become the region with the most seaweed consumption in Japan. Let’s find out why.
Kombu began to distribute to market in Japan during Edo period when water transportation has grown. Cargo ship called “Kitamae ship” From Hokkaido to Japan Sea coastal area distributed different products to many ports all over in Japan.
Toyama prefecture (Ecchu at the time) was one of the anchorage ports and Kombu seaweed, Herrings, Salmon from Hokkaido was delivered to Toyama. In return, Toyama prefecture shipped rice; Sake, Soy sauce and medicines were loaded to the cargo to export to other cities. Thus, Even though Toyama prefecture did not produce kombu seaweed, kombu was familiar in their food culture. Kombu was used not only for dashi stock but as ingredients and many other unique ways of uses.
Route that was taken from Hokkaido to Toyama was part of so called kombu road. Kombu road reached all the way to China.
Kombu was exported using the kombu road
In next update, we will talk about unique ways of kombu uses in Toyama.

Epitome of Japanese food culture – bento box

Recently, Japanese traditional portable lunch, “Bento” is getting a spot light in many countries. Portable lunch have been eaten and existed in many different countries. Then what’s so special about bento? Though, usual portable lunch only contained few menus, Japanese bento included whole meal within that tiny box including main dish, side dish. Bento also considered visual and overall conformity. Thus, some say it’s an art and epitome of Japanese culture in the tiny box.

Japanese traditional bentos have been made in each household, but now a day, it can be found in many restaurants and convenience store. Usually it contains rice, main dish and few side dishes. The rice often came with side of pickle or some kind such as pickled plum, and kombu seaweed tsukudani. Kombu tsukudani and salted kombu were used for long time since it lasted long without going bad and nutritious.

With the many decorative ingredients in bento, kyaraben, has been introduced in modern times. Kyaraben is shortened form of character bento is a style of elaborately arranged bento which features food decorated to look like people, characters from popular media. Moreover, many businessmen carry bento for lunch for its nutrients and cost. As you can see, bento is still used in many places and has evolved to fit their needs and time. Though, Kombu seaweed still remains one of favorite ingredients of all time.

Kombu seaweeds are great for nutritious value and goes well with kyaraben to represent black and color contrast with white. If you ever have chance to make bento, put few slice of kombu seaweed and it’s all good to go!

Umami in Medical Research

Earlier in this blog, we have introduced an approach in United Kingdom to make hospital food tastes better though using less sodium, but merit of utilizing umami in hospital is not only that. Hospitals in Japan are using umami-rich kombu tea to cure dry mouth caused by aging and medical side effect. When Umami reaches its receptor, saliva production will be enhanced and will stay in the mouth longer than any other basic tastes.

Moreover, there are researches going on that Umami is effective for Alzheimer’s. Tohoku university hospital in Japan did experiment to switch their 11 of their alzheimer’s patients to meal with more umami. Result came out that their facial expression improvement has been seen in all 11 of their patients and 7 of them started to talk.

In everyday life, you are preventing many different diseases to fight off; just like old saying “you are what you eat.” Taking in Umami in your daily diet, not only healps you prevent disease but makes dishes multiple times better.

Why is Ocean Water not Packed in Umami?

Just soaking kombu seaweed in the water for a while makes water turns into magic water filled with umami and minerals. Thus, kombu seaweed is often called the king of seaweed. However, have you wonder if kombu seaweed turns water into dashi stock, why ocean never turns into delicious, mild water, instead of plain salt water?

379px-Kelp-forest-Monterey / Inf-Lite Teacher

It’s because when kombu seaweeds are still flickering in the ocean, they are still alive. Not just kombu seaweeds, but all the living matter have function in the body that takes in nutrients that is necessary to grow, and not letting them out, called selective permeability. Glutamic acid, basis of umami taste, is necccesary nutrient for kombu seaweed to grow. Therefore, it will store in its body over the years, condensing all the umami.

Kombu seaweed that was sun dried condenses rich nutrient and umami that was stored over the year, making each ingredients full flavored meal. Piece of dashi kombu strip is delivered to your with great care and time.

Maybe, if enough large amount of sun-dried kombu seaweed are thrown back in ocean, salt water may turn in to mild and full of umami.

The best-before date of kombu seaweed

rausukombuDid you know that kombu seaweed that is used for dashi stock doesn’t have a real expiration date? At the grocery store, any packaged product, including kombu seaweed, is required to print expiration date on their package. As long as kombu seaweed is kept in dark cold place, it can be used for almost forever unless molded. In fact, some people let the kombu seaweed stored for the better taste. Kombu seaweed is already dried and stored for a year before ship out, but aging kombu will reduce sliminess off the surface and tangle smell of the sea, enhancing umami

Back in the days, Kombu seaweed that was harvested at Hokkaido, Northern Japan, was transported to Osaka where kombu seaweed consumption was high. However, kombu did not always delivered to Osaka due to lack of mass transportation. It was not rare to store over winter for heavy snow and transported after winter. When they find out that aged kombu that was stored over winter tastes better, aged kombu were considered luxury kombu seaweed. Nowadays, mass transportation system have improved and made kombu to be transported even in the harsh weather. Storing expensive kombu seaweed in a storage to age was too risky and costly due to maintenance fee and possible mold occurring. Consequently less and less manufacture still store kombu to be aged long term anymore.

In our company, we harvest kombu during summer and stored in storage made particular for kombu seaweed for the maximum taste. Not only we store kombu at kombu storage, premium quality kombu seaweeds are stored for years in the ripening chamber just like vintage wine.

Dashi kombu can be enjoyed even after ages as long as stored correctly. Even if you only use once in a while, just stock them in your pantry and use them for your convenience.

Just make sure before using, Kombu seaweed have white powder on a surface called mannit. Make sure you smell kombu before using it to figure out if its mold or not.

Japanese pickles within few hours!

Japanese pickles is one of the comes out a lot on Japanese breakfast table from long time ago. Pickles were used as hashiyasume. It literally means resting chopsticks and enjoyed during each plate to refresh your palate with different flavor and flavor between main dish and side dish, enhancing the other dishes.

There are many varieties of pickles in Japan, but this time, we will introduce Asazuke pickles that can be done in regular household. Asazuke, generally means pickles that can be done in a few hours. It’s one of the most popular pickles in Japan and can be made by the common households. Asazuke rubs various vegetable with salt, draining water from them to enjoy saturated umami from vegetable and kombu seaweed.

When speaking of pickles, many might think sour fermented pickles. However, Asazuke does not use fermentation in a process so you can enjoy pure umami with no sourness just like quick snacks. It’s easy to make and tasty so please try at your house. All you need is vegetable, salt and kombu.

  • Vegetables – use fresh vegetable. Any vegetable can be used but common vegetable being used are Chinese cabbage, cabbage, cucumber, radish. Other vegetables include celery, carrot, and leafy vegetables.
  • Salt – salt help drain water from vegetable and can saturate umami in vegetables.
  • Kombu seaweed – used to extract more umami from vegetables. Kombu gives a depth in the taste of pickles. Kombu also helps get rid of sodium out of body so it can help reduce high sodium content of pickles.
  • Seasonings – pickles will taste good without any seasonings other than kombu and salt, but seasonings can be added depending on your preference. Commons seasonings used as a varieties are citrus peal, green perilla leaves, ginger, vinegar, red pepper.

Direction

1. Cut vegetable into bite size pieces

2. Pour salt equal to the 2% weigh of vegetable, kombu and desired seasoning together.

3. Let vegetable marinate for few hours.

By storing pickles in a fridge, it can last 2 to 3 days.

塩こん部長のささっと浅漬け(白菜)
浅漬け / rhosoi

Entrance exam season and food

It’s the  season of entrance exam in Japan in February. People in Japan needs to pass the entrance exam in Japan in order to attend high school and college, even some kindergarten requires entrance exam. For college entrance exam, there are standardized exam and individual exam and applicant must take both exam and pass. Unlike American universities, you can only take exam once. If one doesn’t get into desired university, it is not rare to find applicant to wait for next year’s exam, not attending any college. Since whole life could depend on your test scores, people used good luck charm to help get better grades. Now days, many food companies tries to sell their products toward test takers using puns. Kombu seaweed is the perfect ingredient for auspicious puns and has been used for many decades. However, not only auspicious they can help regain your energy and stay focused.

Kombu seaweed has following efficacies.

  • Relieve fatigue – Kombu seaweed is rich in vitamin B1 and B2 that help the nervous system function properly, and are needed for good brain function. They are sometime called anti-stress vitamin because it may improve the ability to withstand stressful conditions.
  • Help you have a quick mind- Alginic acid is said to help you get agile.
  • Reduced mood swing – Some says calcium can help reduce mood swings and kombu seaweed contains 7 times more calcium than milk

In our company, we have chewy snack Kombu seaweed that is easy to consume and helps you stay alert by chewing. Sadly it is not on sale outside of Japan, but Seaweed Salad on the go contains kombu and can be prepared in 5 minutes anywhere or anytime.

Reusing kombu seaweed

Kombu seaweed is used by many as a basis and to extract hint of Japanese cuisine in form of dashi stock and many other ways. However, not many people know that kombu seaweed that has been used once for dashi stock still holds plenty of umami and nutrition in it and can be used. By keeping it in freezer, dashi that has been used can be stored for long time. When the dashi kombu seaweed gets piled up, it can be used as a food ingredients such as kombu dressing, kombu chips. Re-using kombu seaweed is not only economical, but also ecological by reducing the waste from household and can enjoy all the health benefits.

We, Kurakon Foods Corporation, have been using kombu seaweeds that has been grown with blessing of natured and we try to maintain environment. As part of sustainable business model, we promote reducing waste and inventing eco-friendly recipes building awareness to public. Reusing kombu can only be a good thing for economical, ecology, health. Here are the few recipes using used kombu. It’s easy to make and healthy so feel free to try.

Non-oil kombu seaweed chips

Serving size 2~3 person

Ingredients:

Used kombu     1 oz (30g)

Direction

1. Cut used kombu into inch size

2. Wipe all the unnecessary water on kombu with paper towel

3. Place kombu seaweed on microwavable flat plate

4. Microwave for 20 second with 600W

*When kombu seaweed is microwaved for too long, it can be charred.

*It may make some noise during microwave. It’s the sounds of bubbles in kombu seaweed

Kombu seaweed dressing

Serving size: 3~4 person

Ingredients:

Used kombu seaweed                 1oz (30g)

Olive oil                                         2tbl spoon

Vinegar                                         4tbl spoon

Salt                                                 1tbl spoon

Sugar                                             1tbl spoon

Pepper                                          dash of pepper

Direction

1. Put vinegar, salt, and sugar into a bowl and stir it well

2. Mince used kombu seaweeds.

3. Add minced kombu seaweeds into a bowl

4. Add Pepper to adjust the flavor

Traditional practice to celebrate coming spring in Japan.

Japan has distinctive season and it is engraved in our daily life and cultural events. Beginning of seasons is supposedly set on a calendar day and on the first day of season, often traditional ceremony held.

Since, seasons calendar uses Chinese calendar, this year’s beginning of spring was on February 5th. The day before spring is called setsubun and many events is held in each household.

Most common event is Mamemaki, an event scattering roasted soy beans to drive demons away. People hurl roasted osybeans around the entrance and room of their homes, shouting “in with fortune! Out with Evil” (おにはそと、ふくはうち). Soy beans are believed to hold a vigorous and charm against evil. After scattering soy beans, we eat same number of soy as your age to stay healthy.

Other practice during setsubun includes fukucha and ehou-maki.

Fukucha is a tea with kombu seaweed, soy beans, and pickled plum. Soy beans are for hard working, plums are traditionally used for auspicious occasions. This drink is originated from old tales that a monk saved people’s lives with it.

These scattering soy beans and drinking tea has been done for hundred of years, but ehou-maki started fairly recent. It is custom to eat sushi roll facing the direction of the year without talking. Direction changes every year and this year it was south-south east. To receive full luck, people have to eat the rolls with few bites and without talking.

Japanese people prepare for coming spring. It may be already a spring on a calendar, but it still is cold out there with snow storms. Keep your healthy living and auspicious meaning with hot comfy tea and sushi rolls.


節分 / yamakazz