Kombu is a type of seaweed widely established as a dashi and umami flavor ingredient. It grows in the ocean at depths of 5~7 meters through photosynthesis.
There are various types of kombu such as Ma-Kombu, Rishiri Kombu, Rausu Kombu, and Hidaka Kombu. In Aomori, Ma-kombu can be harvested in the Shimokita region. Kombu is a great source of nutrition with calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, and iodine, all essential to growth and development of the human body. It is highly regarded for its health benefits.
The white powdery substance found on the surface of kombu is called mannitol, a umami substance. It is occasionally mistaken for dirt or mold, but one should not try to wash it off as all of the umami substance would be lost. Instead, you can simply wipe down the kombu with a wet towel to gently clean the surface.
Kombu can be used to make dashi stock, “wakaoi onigiri,” or “suki kombu.” “Wakaoi onigiri” uses young kombu to wrap onigiri rice balls. “Suki kombu is a year-old dried kombu that is soft and cut in strips, often used in nimono or miso soup.
“Wakaoi onigiri” has been a traditional Tsugaru food that the great writer Osamu Dazai is said to have eaten often as a night snack.
It makes it easier to chew through the fibers of kombu by biting along the fibers.
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Local Dish Using kombu
Wakaoi onigiri is a type of onigiri that uses thin, soft, one-year-old kombu called wakaoi. It is a simple onigiri, in which freshly steamed rice is wrapped in wakaoi kombu.