Kelp, Ma Kombu
Kombu, kelp, a tall, dark green plant which grows in shallow to medium deep cold seawater, is an indispensable staple in the preparation of Japanese foods. Most of the kelp consumed in Japan comes from the cold, clean waters off Hokkaido, the northern-most large island. Among the many species, Ma-Kombu is known as the king of kelp because of its fragrant bouquet and its ability to produce crystal clear, mellow sweet, rich and refined stock.
Two year old Ma-Kombu is harvested annually during a short period from mid-July through mid-August. After the harvest hundreds of moist kelp leaves dried naturally in the sun for several days. Then the hard and dried kelp is left out after sunset to absorb nighttime moisture making the kelp flexible, allowing it to be stretched and tightly rolled for storage. The stretched kelp is then trimmed by hand to remove the wavy edge, sorted by size and quality and finally it is further dried in the barn. During the drying process as internal water evaporates, fine white powder seeps out from the interior and covers the surface. This powder is the source of fragrant sweetness and good flavor. The proper amount of white powder – determines the quality of the kelp. A simple piece of kelp comes a long way from being a wild sea plant to becoming a chef-ready ingredient.
Kelp is synonymous with the concept of “umami”, excellent flavor. Ma-Kombu’s power is not limited to providing excellent flavor to prepared dishes. Kelp is rich in minerals, vitamins, dietary fibers and iodine. Scientific studies show that kelp contains chemicals that can fight against high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and even some forms of cancer. Ma-Kombu is an ideal staple in an American kitchen as well as in its traditional environment in Japanese cuisine.