Cooking with Kombu
Kombu (a member of the Kelp family) is probably most well known for the unique effect it has on the taste buds, that which the Japanese call Umami and what we know in the west as our 5th flavour or simply savoury.
Kombu is a very versatile sea green (brown!) which adds vitamins and minerals to any dish. It is used to make broths and serves as a base ingredient in stocks (such as dashi for miso soup).
It has a special use for cooking dried beans or pulses. When adding a strip of Kombu to the cooking process, it helps make beans much more digestible by breaking down the enzymes that cause the gassy feeling when eating beans. It also adds a subtle background flavour, by some described as tasting slightly bacony.
Add a 20 cm strip of Kombu to 1L stock, then simmer for at least 1hr depending on strength or flavour desired (longer is better). The Kombu can then either be removed or snipped into bits and returned to the broth. I love the broth on its own with a sarnie or as a base for miso soup.
Some people prefer it raw. It has a very chewy texture that, like sea spaghetti, can be compared to the taste and texture of beef jerky, but then the vegetarian option!
BOIL & STEAM
Add it to enhance the flavour of soups and stews. It generally needs to be cooked for 1-2 hour to extract most of the flavours.
If cooked for an hour and cut into strips the Kombu can be added to salads
TO SOFTEN BEANS
The amino acids in kombu help soften beans and make them more digestible. Add a 4-6″ strip of kombu to a pot of cooking beans (Any remaining pieces are tender enough to eat, or can be removed).
To make Kelp Crisps, a tricky business!