Key Ingredient
Eleanor Nakama-Mitsunaga

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Dried seaweed makes musubi complete

For many of us, no musubi would be complete without the nori wrapping. Although some musubi and Japanese onigiri (rice balls) are made without it, nori adds more flavor as well as nutrition.

The basics: Nori, also known as laver, is a type of dried seaweed that is very popular in Japanese cuisine. The seaweed used to make nori is a very fine and soft algae that has been cultivated in Japan since the 1600s.

The seaweed is collected in wooden frames and dried in square forms, in a technique similar to the method used in Japanese papermaking.

The dried seaweed ranges from dark green to purplish black. A standard sheet is 8-by-7 inches, used to wrap sushi and musubi. Nori also comes in smaller squares for temaki (sushi hand rolls) and in soy-flavored rectangles called ajitsuke-nori, eaten as a condiment. Nori can also be shredded and used to garnish hot or cold noodles such as ramen, soba, udon or somen.

Like all seaweed products, nori is rich in protein, vitamins, calcium and iron.

Selecting: Nori sheets are usually sold in plastic packages or in tins, generally at 10 sheets to a package. Price is a good indication of quality, although few are able to tell the difference between a $2 package and a $4 package. Nori should have a shiny, fresh look and be very crisp when first opened.

Storing: Nori should be kept in a cool, dry area. It can also be stored in the refrigerator or freezer, but make sure it is sealed properly to keep moisture out. Once opened, use as soon as possible.

Use: Most nori sold is yakinori -- already toasted. But for added flavor, you may want to toast the sheets over an open flame or quickly over a burner. Toast two sheets at a time so as not to burn them.

As well as for sushi or musubi, nori can be wrapped around pieces of chicken and fish before deep-frying. Nori can also be incorporated in sandwiches and salads.

Where to buy: Nori sheets are available in most supermarkets, in the Asian-foods section, as well as in Asian specialty markets Prices range from $1 to $5 a package depending on quality and quantity.

Eleanor Nakama-Mitsunaga is
a free-lance food writer. Contact her
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