Kombu and Nori

Here we're dealing with seaweed, a Japanese food for thousands of years. Kombu is kelp and nori is seaweed. They contain many essential vitamins and minerals and no preservatives.

Kombu is usually sold in thick, dried, nearly black strips. It softens when immersed in water and is commonly used to make dashi (soup stock). It can also be simmered with soy sauce, mirin (sweetened cooking sake) and other seasonings to flavor boiled dishes. Kobu-maki consists of wrapped herring or other fish simmered. Tororo--kombu is an olive-green treat made by softening pieces of kombu in vinegar and shredding them.

Kombu is regarded as a "good luck" food and is used in New Year's dishes.

Nori is seaweed that is laid out in the sun in thin sheets to dry on wooden frames. It is usually sold in crispy sheets which have to be kept perfectly dry or the nori will go limp. Nori is often used in a breakfast to dip in soy sauce and wrap around bits of rice. If it's wrapped around rice and fish or vegetables it's called norimaki-zushi. O-chazuke is a bowl of rice and shredded nori that has been doused in hot tea.

It's a source of calcium and a mild tranquilizer, helping to start the day in a relaxing manner.