What is Kombu?
Kombu is an edible kelp that is very popular is East Asia. In fact, the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans all have names for the same seaweed. Most of the kombu seaweed that you find in stores is grown in Hokkaido, Japan. It is grown on ropes in the sea.
I mistakenly thought that dried kombu seaweed can be eaten straight out of the package. Well, I tried that and it was so stiff and dry, almost not chewable. Afterwards, I learned that you are supposed to cook with it, or at least simmer it for a while first in order to be able to eat it by itself.
Green Cuisine makes a very popular kombu cake. It is a patty that brilliantly incorporates kombu. The reason kombu is so great with recipes is that it possesses the sought after umami (savoury) taste. This is due to its high glutamic acid content.
Kombu is very high in iodine, and is a good dose of fibre as well.
What to Do with Kombu
Add it to beans. Did you know that kombu can aid in the digestibility of foods such as beans? You can throw some dried kombu into a pot of cooking beans. A 6 inch strip of dried kombu should work fine. Don’t worry about it afterwards, as it tends to falls apart on its own after about an hour.
Make a vegan broth. If you want to make a delicious vegan broth, add four cups of water to a pot, and a 6 inch piece of dried kombu. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. You can use this as a base for miso soup, or any other soup (including ramen noodle soup).
Enhance your vegan stew. Add dried kombu to your vegetable stew for increased flavour.
Throw kombu into your favourite salad. But first, you should simmer your kombu in water until it is soft enough to eat on its own. Cut it up and toss it into a salad.
Season your food with kombu. In a frying pan, toast your dried kombu until it is crispy and can be ground up into a powder. Sprinkle this on whatever can use more flavour.
Kombu’s ultimate significance is in dashi, a soup stock that is a solid part of Japanese cuisine. Here, kombu is indispensable.