SUPERFOOD: KOMBU


I absolutely love Japanese food.  Those incredible Asian flavours are just way too hard to resist.  It’s even better though when I can find a dish that’s delicious and good for my health.

Cue the entrance of kombu...  This delicious, salty seaweed has been sneaking its way into more and more of my Japanese favourites.  And while it may not be the prettiest member of the power food squad, when it comes to nutrition, kombu certainly packs a punch.

Seaweed has started to become pretty popular lately due to the fact that it’s so low in calories and rich in essential minerals.  Kombu kelp, however, is in a league of it’s own.  Unlike other seaweeds, kombu contains a natural ‘glutamic acid’, which helps to add natural flavour to dishes.  This acid also helps to break down the tough fibres in some foods, making them much easier to digest.  Say hello to a happy tummy!

Aside from digestion, kombu has a whole range of powerful health benefits.  It has the highest iodine content out of all the seaweeds consumed in Japan, which is essential for hormone production and normal thyroid function.  On top of this, kombu is packed full of calcium and iron.  That means strong bones, strong teeth, healthy blood and more energy.  Hooray!

It’s official, Kombu is no stereotypical sea vegetable.  Aside from its nutritional value, it’s different from other seaweeds in that it produces a Dashi. Dashi is this special stock that forms vital part of so many Japanese dishes.  Without it, all your favourites – miso soup, soba soup, ramen, etc. - wouldn’t be nearly as tasty. 

Unlike regular seaweed, you probably won’t find kombu at just any old supermarket.  However, you can usually hunt it down in Asian grocery stores or online.  

While I like eating kombu when I’m out, it’s even better when cooking with it yourself.  That’s why we’ve picked out some delicious recipes for you to try…  

Kombu Dashi Stock

INGREDIENTS

METHOD

  • 20 g kombu

  • 3 cups (30 g) packed katsuobushi (found at Asian grocers)

  • 4 cups (1000 ml) water

  1. Gently clean the kombu with a damp cloth without removing the white powdery "umami" substances and make a couple of slits in it.

  2. Put the kombu and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium low heat, skimming the surface occasionally.

  3. Just before boiling (you will see bubbles around the edges of the pan), remove the kombu.

  4. Turn off the heat to let the dashi cool down a bit.

  5. Add the katsuobushi and bring it to a boil again, skimming occasionally.

  6. Once the dashi is boiling, reduce the heat, simmer for just 30 seconds, and turn off the heat.

  7. Let the katsuobushi sink to the bottom, about 10 minutes.

  8. Strain the dashi through a sieve lined with a paper towel set over a bowl.

  9. Gently twist and squeeze the paper towel to release the extra dashi into the bowl.  If you are not using the dashi right away, save it in a bottle and keep in the refrigerator for 3-7 days or in the freezer for 3 weeks.

Kombu Ramen 

Serves 2 

INGREDIENTS

METHOD

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock

  • 1 cup water 

  • 2 pieces dried kombu

  • ¼ cup soy sauce

  • 1 tsp mirin

  • Ramen: 

  • 1 package ramen noodles

  • 2 eggs 

  • Optional toppings to boil with ramen:

  • Bok choy

  • Carrots 

  • Enoki mushrooms

  • Optional Garnishes:

  • Cilantro

  • Kimchi scallions

  • Radishes

  • Lemon wheel

  1. In medium pot, make the ramen broth by adding chicken stock, water, kombu, soy sauce and mirin. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Set aside and keep warm. This step can be made in advance.

  2. Place 2 cold eggs carefully into medium pot filled with boiling water. Keep water at a low boil to prevent eggs from cracking. Cook for 6 minutes and remove eggs and place into ice water to stop cooking. Peel eggs while slightly warm, they can be more difficult to peel when cold.

  3. Use leftover boiling water to cook ramen noodles. Follow package directions for cooking time.

  4. Optional toppings such as bok choy split in half, carrots cut into match sticks or enoki mushrooms can be cooked in the ramen broth for a few minutes to make tender.

  5. While the noodles are cooking, pour ramen broth into big bowls and add hot noodles. It can be simple with just the 6-minute egg and chopped scallions. Or add any of the optional garnishes.

Kombu Crackers

Makes 15 crackers

INGREDIENTS

METHOD

  • 100 grams brown rice flour

  • 75 grams sesame seeds

  • ½ tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1 handful kombu, soaked & chopped

  • 8 large tbsp water or dashi (recipe above)

  • 3 large tbsp sesame oil

  • 2 large tbsp brown rice syrup

  • 1 tsp tamari

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Place all dry ingredients in large bowl. Mix. Add wet ingredients. Mix. The dough should be moist but not overly wet. 

  2. Place dough into baking tray lined with baking paper. Spread out and press down. Shape into large square using hands. 

  3. Use pizza cutter to cut into approx 15 pieces. 

  4. Place in oven for 20-22 minutes. Crackers should be slightly browned. 

  5. Remove from oven and let cool. Store in airtight jar or serve straight away.

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