What Kind Of Seaweed Is Used For Sushi?

What Kind Of Seaweed Is Used For Sushi?

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If you have seen that dark green shiny wrap on your favorite sushi roll and wondered what it is and where it comes from, you are not alone! The California rolls also have seaweed but it is hidden inside to appeal the westerners. It goes without saying that seaweed is an indispensable ingredient for making sushi, without which your sushi will not be the same.

What kind of seaweed is used for sushi? This type of seaweed is called Nori in Japanese. It is primarily made from a specific variety of seaweed known as Porphyra. The wraps used in sushi rolls are the processed form of seaweeds that grow off the coasts of Japan. Although there are 150 different species of seaweed, Nori is mostly made from this particular variety called Porphyra.

Seaweeds can be broadly classified into three different categories – red algae, green algae, and brown algae. Nori is red algae but after processing, it appears dark green, almost black in color.

Nori is perhaps the most common type of seaweed and it is sold as large sheets used for wrapping sushi rolls. They are extremely popular in Japan and Korea, and the western countries are slowly discovering the flavor and health benefits associated with this amazing seaweed.


Where Does Sushi Seaweed Come From?

As mentioned above, Nori is derived from a particular variety of seaweed that is called Porphyra and it is cultivated in seaweed farms. They thrive in areas where the shore emerges right above the sea water at the time of low tides and submerges into the water during high tides.

Ropes or nets are arranged on the shores in a way to allow the seaweeds to come out of the water and be exposed to air for a few hours every day. The spores germinate on ropes and they grow into brownish-red thallus that contains elliptical blades that may be up to 15-20 cm long.

The fully-grown Porphyra blades are harvested by hand, washed in fresh water, shredded into small pieces, and processed using machines to make dry sheets of Nori. Most of the salt content is washed away in the processing unit, so Nori is naturally low in sodium.

After processing, the dried Nori seaweed is cut and packed into bundles that reach the grocery stores and supermarket for sale. The simple and dried seaweed is called Hoshi-Nori while the toasted version is known as Yaki-Nori.

What Type Of Seaweed Is Best For Making Sushi?

If you are not Japanese or Korean, chances are you will be confused about the different brands of seaweed wraps. Most people assume that they are all the same but the truth is that there are numerous options available for sushi making.

There are the traditional seaweed wraps that are known to release sea-salt flavor and add a distinct taste to your sushi. Another type is the neutral seaweed wraps which are more preferred by westerners because they don’t impart any flavor and let the sushi ingredients take on the lead.

Here’s an important tip –

If you are planning to make sushi, I would recommend that you check out a few brands available in the market and research about their quality. You can find both high grade and low-grade seaweed wraps in the stores. 

Who uses the low-quality seaweed wraps? They are mostly used by buffet restaurants that offer sushi rolls as an option but they intend to bring down the quality a bit as a strategy to reduce its consumption.

How To Tell The Difference Between Good And Bad Nori

There are so many various grades of seaweed wraps available in the market that it may be confusing for a beginner. However, with a little knowledge and practice, you will be able to tell the difference between good and bad quality Nori.

The low-grade seaweeds wraps tend to become chewier if the sushi rolls sit for a long time. This is because sushi rice leaves moisture and this comes in contact with the wrap and spoils the texture. If using low-grade wraps (although it is strictly recommend not to) you must consume sushi immediately.

When using high-grade seaweed (nori) wraps to make sushi, you don’t have to worry about this issue. The sushi will have a crisp texture when consumed immediately and if eaten after a period of time, the wrap will be moist and melt inside your mouth.

The only challenge you may face when using a good quality Nori is that the outer layer may tear easily if the sushi sits for a long time. To prevent this, I would suggest you let the sushi rice sit for a few seconds to allow the moisture to evaporate before rolling up the fillings.

What Factors To Consider When Buying Seaweed (Nori)

Ask any sushi expert and they will tell you how picky they are when it comes to Nori. They select the finest seaweed wraps for sushi making because just like rice, Nori is a foundational ingredient in this popular delicacy.

In traditional sushi rolls, Nori is the first thing that touches the tongue so it sets the stage and gives a hint of what the taster can expect to experience. So, while so much attention is given to what goes inside the sushi rolls, I think wrap itself deserves a lot of importance.

Even though Nori remains understated, it plays a key role in creating an exceptional sushi experience. You will be amazed to know that some varieties of seaweed are so superior, they may be more expensive than the fish. Sushi experts know that these wraps can make or break a sushi experience.

Selection And Storage Of Seaweed Nori

You can find sheets of dried seaweed Nori in supermarkets and Japanese stores around the world. When selecting a product, make sure the sheets look shiny and feel firm to touch. They must be dark green in color and have brittle texture. You can find both yaki-nori (dried and toasted sheets) and the Hoshi-nori (dried and un-toasted sheets) in the market.

Nori sheets must be stored in cool and dry place, away from moisture and humidity. They must also be kept away from direct sunlight. Nori powder and flakes must be stored in sealed containers.

How Is Nori Seaweed Used In Making Sushi and Other Dishes

Nori sheets are the essential elements used in sushi bars and also in your kitchen when you are all set to make homemade sushi rolls. When making traditional sushi, Nori is placed over a bamboo mat and sushi rice is layered on top on it. The fillings are then added over rice and the bamboo mat is slowly rolled give your sushi roll the desired shape.

In California rolls, the seaweed wrap goes inside to make sushi more appealing for westerners. In this inside-out rolling technique, a bamboo mat is placed over an even surface, a thin plastic wrap is placed over the mat, sushi rice goes over plastic, then comes the Nori sheet and fillings are placed on top of it. The bamboo mat is then rolled to give you delicious and aesthetic looking rolls.

Nori seaweeds lend a strong fishy flavor to the sushi rolls. It is used to wrap around cooked and seasoned sushi rice to enhance the flavor and provide a supportive body to it. This kind of seaweed may also be added to a variety of other dishes such as the following:

Nori egg soup is a Japanese traditional soup served as an appetizer before dinner. Seaweed is sprinkled over vegetables, cooked rice, and seafood to improve taste.

Furikake is a type of Japanese condiment that includes a mixture of nori, dried fish, sugar, salt, and sesame seeds. Nori flakes may also be used to garnish chicken, vegetables, and salads.

Nori crusted salmon is another mouth-watering delicacy in which seaweed powder is sprinkled over fish fillet. Crumbled dry sheets of nori are also used in sandwiches, pasta dishes, tofu, and bread.

Frequently Asked Questions About Nori Seaweed

What is Nori Seaweed?

Nori is the dark green (almost black) seaweed wrap used in sushi rolls to hold the sushi rice and filings in place. Although people in western countries experience Nori only in sushi rolls, it is used as an important ingredient for several Japanese dishes.

Nori may be added to seafood dishes and soups to enhance the flavor, however, you must be careful because it tends to expand in volume when hydrated. If not stored properly, Nori may absorb water and get spoiled.

What is the nutritional content of Nori?

Nori is not just a taste enhancer but it also adds nutritional value to your sushi. It is loaded with protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. One sheet of Nori seaweed can be used for an entire roll and it adds only 13 calories to the dish.

Nori sheet is an essential ingredient used in sushi rolls. As one-third of nori is fiber and another one-third is protein, it makes sushi rolls a healthy dish. In Japan, people even consume Nori as a standalone snack by simply toasting it with soy sauce or sesame oil.

How is Nori seaweed harvested?

This kind of seaweed follows a slightly complex but well-defined aquatic agricultural practice. They are farmed in the sea where they grow on large nets or rope suspended on the surface of the water. Seaweeds grow to full lengths and are ready for commercial harvesting in just 45 days from the time of germination.

In Japan, seaweeds are cultivated on more than 230 square miles of coastal waters and they produce about 350,000 tonnes of Nori per year for the global market. Over the years, the popularity of sushi around the world has turned it into a huge and profitable business.

Nori is basically red seaweed that falls under the red algae family of species Porphyra. However, Nori is not consumed as it is after harvesting. It goes through a process of shredding, machine drying, and roasting into sheets to give it a dark green hue.

What do colors and appearance say about Nori seaweed

If you know your Nori well, there are many signs that tell about the product quality. The first important indicator is the color. Low-quality Nori sheets will have a brownish or not-so-dark green color. They may also have an uneven surface with thicker/ thinner in some area.

Low-grade Nori may have a rough finish, several holes, and visible irregularities. On the taste front, the low-quality seaweed wraps will be tasteless, dry and have a chewy texture when moist.

The finest quality sheets are determined by shiny jet black or dark green color. They have an even surface and uniform thickness. They are naturally sweet and have a subtle flavor that enhances the taste of whatever dish they are added to.

Premium grade Nori sheets are crisp out of the bag and they become so soft after absorbing moisture that they melt inside the mouth. They taste a lot like the ocean with earthy undertones that make them an indispensable ingredient in sushi.

Where can you find the best seaweed?

Nori is cultivated in countries like Korea and China, but the finest variety is produced in Ariake Bay located on an island in Southern Japan. Seaweedcultivated in the nutrient-rich water of Ariake are highly prized and they are meticulously processed.

Similar to the tea plantation, Nori is also harvested in batches, with the higher quality seaweed harvested early in the season. Other factors like water temperature, mineral content, and water current also play a role in imparting a unique taste to Nori.

How to correctly store unused Nori seaweed?

Nori sheets have the tendency to absorb moisture, so you need to store the unused sheets correctly to use them again next time. If your store-bought Nori comes in a desiccant packet, don’t discard it. I would suggest that you keep your seaweed sheets inside the ziplock packets to keep out moisture.

You may also transfer the remaining sheets into an airtight container and store in a dry and cool place to keep them in the best condition. While unopened Nori can last up to 6 months, they must be used within four weeks of opening the packet.

Nori sheets may last for six months if stored in a sealed plastic bag inside the fridge. They may last for up to 10 months when kept inside the freezer. Don’t open the package immediately after taking out of the fridge or freezer. Let it warm up in room temperature before using the seaweed sheets.

5 Tips For Using Seaweed Wraps For Sushi

• Nori usually comes pre-toasted and you can re-toast it slightly on a gas stove to remove any traces of moisture and improve the crispiness.

• You should never cut a full Nori sheet into half. If the product is fresh, you should be able to fold it, pinch the edges and tear the sheet into equal halves as needed.

• Don’t let the sheets come in contact with water. Moisture from sushi rice vinegar has a different effect than water, which may cause the sheets to get shriveled up.

• After putting sushi rice over the Nori sheets, wait for some time before adding ingredients inside. This will give some time for moisture from sushi rice to seep inside the sheets and prevent them from breaking when you roll the sheets.

• Always apply sushi rice and ingredients on the dull and rough side to have the shiny surface on the top for presentation purpose. This does not matter much if you are rolling inside out.

Related Article: Why Is My Nori So Chewy? [Options to Improving Your Seaweed]

The Final Words

While there are different types of edible seaweeds used for culinary purposes, the kind of seaweed used for sushi is known as Yaki Nori or just Nori in Japanese. With the rising popularity of sushi around the world and California rolls providing westerners the gateway to experience the exotic flavors, these thin and crisp seaweed wraps have become well known and admired.

If you are planning to make sushi at home, you can get Nori seaweed from a grocery store or supermarket near you. Make sure you only use the high-quality sheets and store them properly after use.

 Try out different sushi recipes at home with seaweed wraps on the outside or inside to add crunchiness and salty flavor to your favorite delicacy!

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