Kombu or konbu (Japanese: 昆布 Konbu, pronounced [koꜜmbɯ]), also called dashima (Korean: 다시마 dasima) or haidai (simplified Chinese: 海带; traditional Chinese: 海帶; pinyin: Hǎidài), is edible kelp from the family Laminariaceae widely eaten in East Asia.
|Saccharina japonica |
Most kombu is from the species Saccharina japonica (Laminaria japonica), extensively cultivated on ropes in the seas of Japan and Korea. Over 90 percent of Japanese kombu is cultivated, mostly in Hokkaidō, but also as far south as the Seto Inland Sea.
HistoryThe earliest written record of kombu appeared in Shoku Nihongi in 797 as a gift and tax from the Tōhoku Region. Its use is believed to have begun much earlier, probably dating back to the Jōmon period, but because it easily decomposes, no archaeological evidence can be found. During the Muromachi period a newly developed drying technique allowed kombu to be stored for more than a few days, and kombu became an important export from the Tohoku area. By the Edo period, as Hokkaidō was colonized and shipment routes were organized, the use of kombu became widespread throughout Japan. Traditional Okinawan cuisine relies heavily on kombu as a part of the diet; this practice began in the Edo period. Okinawa uses more kombu per household than any other prefecture. In the 20th century, a way to cultivate kombu was discovered and kombu became cheap and readily available.
In 1867 the word "kombu" first appeared in an English-language publication - "A Japanese and English Dictionary," by James Curtis Hepburn.
Since the 1960s, dried kombu has been exported from Japan to many countries. It was available initially at Asian, and Japanese in particular, food shops and restaurants, and has later been sold by supermarkets, health-food stores, and other non-specialised suppliers.
CookingJapanese cuisines as one of the three main ingredients needed to make dashi, a soup stock. Kombu is sold dried ('dashi kombu') or pickled in vinegar ('su kombu') or as a dried shred ('Oboro kombu' or 'Shiraga kombu'.) It may also be eaten fresh as sashimi. Making kombu dashi is simple though kombu dashi powder may also be used. A strip of dried kombu in cold water, then heated to near-boiling, is the very first step of making dashi and the softened kombu is commonly eaten after cooking. It can also be sliced and used to make tsukudani, a dish that is simmered in soy sauce and mirin.
Kombu may be pickled with sweet and sour flavoring and is cut into small strips 5 or 6 centimeters long and 2 centimeters wide. These are often eaten as a snack with green tea.
It is often included when cooking beans, putatively to add nutrients and improve their digestibility.
Kombucha 昆布茶 "seaweed tea" is a beverage brewed from dried and powdered kombu. This is sometimes confused with the unrelated English word kombucha, a neologism for the fermented and sweetened tea from Russia, which is called kōcha kinoko (紅茶キノコ) in Japan.
Kombu is also used to prepare a seasoning for rice that is going to be made into sushi.
Nutrition and health effectsKombu is a good source of glutamic acid, an amino acid responsible for umami, the Japanese word used for one of the five basic tastes in addition to salt, sweet, sour, and bitter, identified in 1908. Several foodstuffs in addition to kombu provide glutamic acid or glutamates. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is often used as a food additive and flavor enhancer.
Kombu contains iodine, a mineral that is essential for normal growth and development. However, the high iodine content of kombu has been blamed for thyroid problems after drinking large amounts of soy milk in which kombu was an additive.
It is also a source of dietary fiber.
Prominent species(Japanese name followed by species)
- Marafuto kombu (Laminaria saccharina), contains mannitol and is considered sweeter
- Ma-kombu (Saccharina japonica)
- Mitsuishi-kombu or dashi-kombu (Laminaria angustata), commonly used in the making of dashi
- Naga-kombu (Laminaria longissima)
- Rishiri-kombu (Laminaria ochotensis), commonly used for soup stocks