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Kombu, From the Sea

Monday, February 17, 2020



Kombu (pronounced KOM-boo) is what kelp is called in Japan.   

Kombu is one of many sea vegetables becoming more mainstream in our western culture. Nori, dulse and spirulina are also sea vegetables that have moved beyond the health food stores and Japanese restaurants to grocery store shelves.

Why Kombu?  Kombu is a natural flavor enhancer with huge health benefits. It adds a savory umami taste to foods. Nutritionally, kombu contains iodine, which is important for thyroid function, iron, calcium, along with trace minerals. Kombu contains vitamins A & C as well.

Kombu has a magical property (technically the enzyme glutamic acid) that acts as a natural bean tenderizer.  This magical property helps break down complex sugar in beans which are gas-producing. So, Kombu can help you avoid gas from beans!

Dried kombu can be found in Asian section of grocery stores, on line, natural markets and Whole Foods. When sealed tightly and stored in a dry cool place, kombu will keep for years in the pantry.

How to use it:

Bean dishes:  to boost up the nutrition and help with gas, add 4” piece of kombu when cooking bean and lentil dishes.  Once it’s done, remove the kombu from what you’re cooking (as you would a bay leaf). Kombu can be eaten, but its rubbery in texture and not recommended.

Soups: to increase the nutrition punch, and add umami (deep savory) flavor, add a 4” piece of kombu to soup or stew recipes. Once cooked, remove the kombu. 

Dashi:  a stock that adds that rich umami flavor to Japanese dishes. Especially yummy in miso soup.


Makes 8 cups


  • 4” – 6” piece of kombu
  • 1 cup (packed) dried bonito flakes (smoked and dried tuna flakes found in Asian markets) (vegetarian version 3 – 4 nickel-sized ginger pieces)


  • combine kombu and 8 cups of water. Let soak for about 15 minutes. Bring to a simmer, simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Take off heat
  • Remove kombu
  • Add bonito flakes (or ginger pieces) and stir. Let soak 10 – 15 minutes.
  • Strain out bonito flakes (or ginger).

Use right away, keep in refrigerator for a week or store in the freezer for later use.

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