Nori: Try seaweed wrap for more than just sushi

Nori can add a touch of ocean flavor to breakfast, lunch or dinner – just ask the Japanese. Enlarge photo

Matthew Mead/Associated Press

Nori can add a touch of ocean flavor to breakfast, lunch or dinner – just ask the Japanese.

If you’ve ever had a California roll, you’ve had nori.

Now it’s time to learn what else you can do with this ubiquitous, yet always overlooked paper-like ingredient made from seaweed.

Nori – also called laver – is a somewhat generic name for a variety of seaweeds cultivated for use mostly in Japanese cooking. I say mostly because the same varieties are added to oatmeal in Ireland. But Americans know nori best as the paper-thin black-green wrapping used in sushi.

It is produced by washing and chopping fresh seaweed to create a slurry. That mixture then is spread thin, dried, cut into sheets and lightly toasted. The result is a crunchy, dark paper with just a hint of ocean flavor.

In Japan, nori has a life beyond the sushi bar. It is consumed for breakfast with fish and rice, eaten as a snack dunked in soy sauce and used to wrap balls of rice. In recent years, the snack approach has begun to catch on in the U.S. Nori now is sold in small potato chip-like strips, often seasoned with sea salt, wasabi, even chipotle pepper.

Most grocers sell packages of 10-inch sheets of nori, usually near the sushi or in the international aisle. It also is used in Japanese snack cracker mixes.

Nori sheets usually are sold pre-toasted; use them as is for sushi. But when using the nori in other ways, toasting it briefly can improve the flavor and texture. To do this, simply use tongs to hold the sheets one at a time over a lit burner (or candle if you have an electric stove). About 10 to 15 seconds will suffice.