also: konbu, dasima, haidai, kelp
shelf life: at least two years (can last indefinitely under ideal conditions) when kept dry and sealed in a cool, dark place
flavour profile: oceanic, umami, sweet, salty
pairs well with: eggplant, fermented soy (miso, tamari, etc), garlic, grains, kale, legumes, mirin, mushrooms, onion, root vegetables, sage, squash, thyme, vinegar,
Cuisines: chinese, japanese, korean, macrobiotic
special notes: excellent source of umami due to being rich in glutamic acid, incredible flavour enhancer, rich in trace elements often lacking in land foods, breaks down indigestible sugars in dry beans, said to reduce hypertension and blood cholesterol levels
Kombu is a generic name covering several different species of edible kelp from the pacific ocean. It is high in iron, calcium, trace minerals, antioxidants, and free glutamic acid, which is responsible for the umami enhancing characteristics which are one of its major uses, such as in dashi used in japanese cuisine as a flavour base for a plethora of dishes. These same properties make it an excellent addition to soups, broths, beans, and other liquid based savory elements to further enhance their umami depth and bring in the added bonus of essential trace minerals often low or missing in land based foods (especially iodine.) Kombu also contains an enzyme that helps break down the indigestible sugars in dried beans, further unlocking nutrients and making them easier to digest.
While kombu is sometimes just called kelp, it is definitely not the same as kelp you’ll find in your health food store, which has a much stronger fishy aroma and taste, more grassy and just generally less “meaty.” So make sure what you’re grabbing is some good kombu from your favorite asian goods purveyor or the asian section of your local health food store or supermarket for reliable culinary quality kelp. Or you could skip the store and buy it online here.