What is Nori? It’s the crisp, fragrant papery seaweed sheets that are so important to the Japanese and their diet. Nori is made from a red algae species called Porphyra, which is harvested from the ocean. It is popularly found in Japanese restaurants serving sushi in America, but it is a daily food staple to many East Asians.
You’ve probably come across Nori, but have you heard the intriguing facts behind this fantastic food? How is Nori made? Is Nori a plant? When did people start eating this? And why is it getting so much attention? Knowing Nori’s deep secrets will help you appreciate it even more!
So what are you waiting for? Read on to discover incredible facts about Nori.
1. Nori Hotspots
Nori is the most popular seaweed in the world. But where does it come from? The leading producer (and consumer) of Nori is Japan, followed by Korea and China. Today, Nori is primarily farmed on the far side of Tokyo Bay in Chiba Prefecture. Japan’s most thriving production areas are Kyush, Mie and Aichi prefectures, and the Seto Inland Sea. The finest Nori is said to grow in the nutrient-dense waters of Ariake Sea, approximately 700 miles southwest of Tokyo.
2. A Red Seaweed
Like it or not, these crispy, fragrant, toasted, salty snacks are actually seaweed. Nori is made from an edible species of red seaweed from the Pyropia and Porphyra genera, such as Pyropia yezoensis and Pyropia tenera. However, Nori is never sold fresh in its slippery and slimy state – they are always made into sheets.
3. How It’s Made
Once the seaweed is pulled out from the water, it is washed in clean water. Next, it is cut into small pieces by a machine and combined with water. The mixture is then poured onto mats to create sheets, which pass through a drier. Finally, the Nori is toasted in a process similar to that of papermaking.
4. Nori Delicacies
Most of us know Nori as the wrapper of a Japanese Sushi or Korean Kimbap. However, Nori is eaten in a wide variety of ways as well. For example, Nori dust is sprinkled on rice to add a fantastic flavor and used to spice up soups like miso soup. Nori is also popular in Japanese rice crackers, rice balls, and other tasty and healthy snacks.
5. Nori Shopping
You can typically find Nori in any Asian grocery store. But with the growing craze for Nori, it isn’t surprising to see this product in general supermarkets. Nori sheets are usually sold in airtight packets that often include a moisture absorbent. Since Nori is susceptible to moisture, it’s crucial to store it in a dry place.
6. History of Nori
Nori has been cultivated in Japan for thousands of years. The earliest record of Nori was in 701 AD, when it was mentioned as a method of paying tax. However, Nori then was not as we know it today, and it came in a thick paste form. The first traditional sheet nori was created in 1750 with the advent of papermaking.
After the Second World War, the pollution in the waters created a problem for Nori farmers. Here, British scientist Kathleen Drew-Baker, stepped in to help reestablish the nori industry. To this day, the Japanese revere her as the “Mother of the Sea” and enjoy dried nori sheets in their daily meals.
7. Nori Producers
Japan is the largest producer of Nori. The next-largest producers are South Korea and China.
8. Healthy Choice
Nori is dense in both vitamins and minerals, especially iodine. But it is also a source of vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, C, and niacin. In addition, Nori is packed with protein – up to 50% of its dry weight! Furthermore, Nori is known to help keep cholesterol levels down.
The Japanese, who are the largest consumer of Nori, also have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. Plus, the obesity rate is 3.2% – 10 times less than that of the United States. Is that more than pure coincidence? What do you think?
9. Other Names
If you happened to be in Korea, you would call Nori “Gim” or “Kim.” Gim is actually the same as Nori – just a different language. However, the Korean version is more often flavored with salt, oil, and toasted.
Similarly, the western name for Nori is Laver. So, whether you call it Nori, Gim, or Laver, it is the same thing!
10. The Darker, The Better
As with anything else, Nori also comes in different grades and qualities – cheap or expensive, raw or toasted. The way to know the best Nori is to look for the color. The darker it is, the higher the quality of the Nori. The best Nori are very dark, almost black, smooth, and tightly woven.
11. Plant or Algae?
We’ve already discussed that Nori is a seaweed. And, seaweeds are not plants but a type of algae. Unlike plants, algae have no roots, leaves, or stems to carry water and nutrients. Instead, algae soak up whatever it needs directly from the surrounding seawater. However, one common thing is that both seaweed and land plants depend on sunlight to create energy via photosynthesis.
12. Breath of Life
Besides benefitting people culturally, industrially, and nutritionally, seaweed is a massive contributor to our planet’s ecology. Did you know that all algae jointly provide almost 90% of the atmosphere’s oxygen? Moreover, unlike trees and plants, some algae can grow up to half a meter a day – resulting in an enormous productive capacity. Indeed, seaweeds like Nori are one of the largest carbon sequesters on earth.
Nori has a complex life cycle, and it reproduces both sexually and asexually. Since seaweeds don’t produce seeds like land plants, people didn’t know how to plant Nori. Kathleen Drew-Baker was the scientist who discovered that Nori blades have egg cells and sperm cells. When the egg cells are fertilized, they produce spores that drift off to find a place to cling to. Once the spores attach to a surface such as oysters and clams, they germinate and grow into a new generation of seaweed blades.
14. Nori Consumers
Some of the most popular seaweeds are Wakame, Kombu, and Nori. They are all common ingredients is found in Asian cuisine. Every year, Asia alone consumes several million tons of seaweed!
15. Plants vs. Seaweed
Are there more land plants or seaweeds on the earth? When compared side by side, it’s evident that seaweed wins the competition again. Even in the face of dense jungles like the Amazon, the ocean deep pulls through: there are nine times more seaweeds than land plants on the planet.
16. No Cellulose
Cellulose is the substance in the cell walls that helps plants to stand stiff and upright. Cellulose is made of hundreds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. But Nori cell walls contain no cellulose. Still, Nori is full of protein, and people can digest it, unlike most kelp.
17. Beautifying Nori
It has been discovered that Nori can be great for enhancing beauty. The vitamins found in Nori are suitable for your eyes, skin, and hair. In addition, a number of studies have shown that Nori contains skin-cleansing properties that are useful in avoiding signs of premature aging. This seaweed also enhances circulation and possesses detoxification properties.
18. A Gift For You
Oseibo is a special occasion in Japan where all Japanese take part in a tradition where they exchange gifts with one other. This is a year-end gift which is given in December. During this month, you can find special racks with seasonal gifts in Japanese stores. And Nori is an important item in this annual gift-giving ceremony. Japanese Nori producers compete for oseibo customers, offering an array of gift-packaged Nori!
19. Happy Nori Day!
Since Nori is so integrated into Japanese culture, they also have a day to celebrate it. The Japanese celebrate a “Nori Day” every year on February 6. The National Lionfish and Shellfishes Cooperative Federation Association set apart February 6 as the day of seaweed in 1966. Ever since, the Japanese take the time to show their love for this incredibly important food.
20. Growth Rate
Nori is a sea plant that grows at a speedy rate. During the first month, the blades grow at a slower pace, but once they reach 1 cm long, they grow almost 10-15 cm in a short period of 15 days. All in all, Nori matures and is ready to harvest in 30-45 days.
21. Nori Toast
Finally, here is a secret from the Japanese kitchen: Give you Nori a slight toast. Toasted Nori tastes even better and makes it light and crispy. Apply a tiny bit of oil on both sides of the Nori sheet and gently waft it back and forth over a kitchen burner until its turns golden brown. There’s simply no wrong way to eat a delicious Nori sheet!
Now that you know these amazing facts about Nori, you are sure to appreciate this crispy, healthy snack even more! Good for the health, the planet’s well-being, and the business world, Nori sure deserves a lot of attention and appreciation in today’s world. So get going and feel good about yourself while enjoying your snack of Nori!