History and production of nori
The use of Nori dates back many centuries ago. It is impossible to know exactly when, but considering that Nori was mentioned for taxation in a law enacted in 702, it is at least 1300 years old. It is in the Edo period (1603-1867) that the Japanese began to produce sheet Nori like today. For a stable production of high-quality Nori, innovation in breeding methods continues as of today.
Today most Nori is farm-raised. It is cultured by laver-raisers in calm sea in the Regions of Kyushu, the Seto Island Sea, Tokai, Chiba and Miyagi. The seeds are planted in the nets at the end of summer. The Nori grown in the farm is harvested from autumn to spring and processed into squared Nori after shredding. Since it is brought up in the cold sea, this is very hard work for laver-raisers.
When eaten fresh from collection, Nori like from the Ariake Sea has a lovely salty taste, subtle and not at all overpowering. It is the harmony of gentle neighboring mountain waters with salty marine currents which gives the well-renowned nori from Saga its unique earthy notes. It has a long, pleasant, fresh aftertaste.
To produce dried nori seaweed, the fishermen chop and shred the fresh nori then mix it with sweet water. This mixter is fed into a frame the size of the nori sheet. The frames move over down the production line while heated at a medium temperature not exceeding 50 °C. At the end of the process most nori is roasted to get a crispy shiny sheet of nori. Roasted nori is excellent for sushi.
Roasted (Yaki nori) or unroasted
You can buy unroasted nori. It contains a higher amount of water and doesn’t have a roasted taste. The more water is left in the seaweed sheet, the harder it is to bite, the heat helps to get rid of excessive moisture. Unroasted nori is excellent for salads, rice dishes, and stir-fries. It has a stronger taste and a chewy, thick texture preferred by some but unsuitable for preparing sushi.
Roasted seaweed can be re-toasted for a crispier and lighter texture. That’s especially useful if your nori has been already opened and stored for a while. Nori tends to collect moisture during storage and gets chewier when exposed to air.
Most nori is sold as full sheet 21x19cm. However, also half sheets or even smaller are available for smaller or thinner sushi rolls or other applications like rice balls.
Quality of nori
The best nori has a dark color, uniform thickness, and no holes. When rolling it doesn’t break while being crispy at the first bit. When in your month, it melts on your tongue while releasing a nice umami flavor.
Low quality nori can be tasteless, chewy and can have a mixture of other flavors. It’s often brown or light green.
The Saga Bay in the Ariake Sea is famous for the cultivation of nori. The region produces 20% of Japanese nori production, even up to 40% if including Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Nagasaki. Ariake Sea is the biggest and most famous seaweed producing area in Japan. The Saga Bay in the Ariake Sea is surrounded by mountains. Their rivers bring rich minerals down to the ocean waters. It is famous for the quality of seaweed produced there; the seaweed is soft and melts in your mouth.
Seto Inland Sea
The Seto inland Sea is the 2nd biggest seaweed producing area in Japan. The Seto inland Sea seaweed tend to be tough. It is does not melt easily after wrapping rice with it, so it is suited for sushi rolls that have to be kept for a while.
Aichi is not very famous seaweed producing area compare to Ariake or Setouchi, since the production scale is not as big as those area, but people work on seaweed know that seaweed from Aichi is a quality seaweed. Taste, flavour and colour is good, so it can be used for Sushi, rice-ball, topping for soba etc.
Since Miyagi is located at the northernmost seaweed producing area, so the first seaweed of the year come out from Miyagi. Roasted seaweed from this area is famous.
Chiba used be famous as an Edo-mae (old capital city of Japan) seaweed. Taste and flavour is good.
Nori is a great source of nutrition.
Nori is called “soybean of sea” and “vegetable of sea” in Japan. Nori is rich in various nutrients; minerals, vitamins, dietary fibres, etc. They are the nutrients that people lacks in modern days.
40% of nori is made of a protein and this is comparable to soybean. The amount of the protein included in 1 sheet of nori is equivalent to 1/5 of egg. Furthermore, protein of nori contains all of the essential amino acids; this means protein of nori is excellent in terms of quantity and quality.
Nori contains a lot of vitamins, especially vitamin A, B1, B2, C; 10-100times more than that of ordinary vegetables. Eating 2 sheets of nori will get you enough vitamin A, B1, B2 for a day.
Nori contains various minerals; potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, etc. Eating 1 sheet of nori will get you enough iron for a day. Eating nori is great anemia prevention.
We tend to lack dietary fibre nowadays. We all know vegetables contain fibres, but nori is also rich in fibres. In addition, fibre of nori is softer than that of vegetables, so it is easy on our digestive systems.
Ideas how to use nori
Nori sheets can be cut in pieces, cut fine, or grounded for many other applications then just your tradition sushi roll.
- Use it cut into little tripes as garnish. You could warm it with some oil and seasoning for extra taste.
- Make your own furikake. Ground the sheets into little pieces and mix it with any spice or seeds you think give a nice taste on your salad, rice, or rolls.
- Toasted Nori Dip; fine ground the sheets, add mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, chives, rice vinegar, white miso and some pepper and salt.
- Onigiri (rice ball); take some Koshihikari (preferred) rice, mix it cooked with your favorite furikake, make a nice “ball”, cut the nori sheet to the right size, and place a slice of nori on the bottom of the onigiri.