February 22, 2016

The Japanese Food Guide: Nori

By Stuart Turner

What is it?

Nori is a type of edible seaweeed, but it is used for a different purpose than the other popular Japanese edible seaweed; wakame. Whereas wakame is used for flavouring stocks, nori is used as a casing for dishes like sushi and temaki, or for embellishing ramen and hot dishes. It is the same species as the British Laver, often used in Welsh cooking, and it is made using a process similar to paper making.

In Japan people have been using Nori before some of the earliest taxation records in 700AD. 

How is Nori Produced?

Farming for Nori must take place in the sea, making things a little more complicated than traditional field farming! The nori seaweed plants grow on a suspended net and the farmers attend to them in boats. Although the farming is difficult, the turnover time from seed to harvest is just 45 days! 

Nori used to be pressed and processed using the same method of turning wood pulp into paper, nowadays however there are highly automated machines capable of doing this on a larger scale at a much quicker rate. 

Nori is grown in Japan but also in China, cheaper nori sheets are produced in China of a lower grade, whereas the most expensive, thin and highest grade sheets are from Japan. Lately the Chinese industry is threatening to overtake the Japanese industry due to their low production costs. 

 How is Nori Used?

More often than not, you'll be using nori to wrap sushi rolls. Nori is used in the vast majority of sushi rolls, as it's the foundation for the rice (even in inside out rolls!). 

When the nori is lightly toasted over an open flame, it is also used to garnish soups and noodles. It it either cut into large strips, or into tiny shreds. 

You'll also see nori used a lot in making bento boxes. This literally translates to lunch box, but in modern times it's often used to describe the art of Japanese mums making cute and pretty presentations of lunch foods in boxes for their children. The nori can be shaped using scissors or specially made punches, that can help make the eyes or finer details of characters!

Nori is delicious and it's good for you too! It contains high levels of B12, and is one of the only plant-based sources of this. It also has good levels of Vitamin A, Iron, Iodine and Vitamin C. 

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