Konbu Tsukudani: Sea Kelp Rice Topping
The concept of Konbu Tsukudani is a little hard to explain, since it’s a food category that doesn’t really exist in the West: a topping for white rice. As you may know, in Japan rice is usually cooked entirely plain, without even salt. Instead of flavoring rice as you cook it, as is done in the West, we usually add flavor to plain white rice by topping it with something intensely flavorful (or, if we’re making Onigiri, by stuffing it inside).
Intense certainly describes the taste of Konbu Tsukudani – a powerful mix of sweet, salty and umami. Usually I buy the ready-made kind in Japan and bring it, but I recently ran out. So, I decided to make some from scratch. Turns out, if you can get dried sea kelp, it’s easy.
In fact, Konbu Tsukudani is delicious even without rice. Probably the simplest way to enjoy tsukudani is to just eat it on its own, as an accompaniment to green tea: something intensely sweet and salty to heighten the flavor of the tea.
- Dry Konbu -25 g
- Sugar – 2 tablespoons
- Soy sauce – 3 tablespoons
- Mirin – 2 tablespoons
- Dashi – a teaspoon
- Water – 1 cup
- Vinegar – 3 tablespoons
- Leave the pieces of konbu to soak in the vinegar for about 30 minutes. This is the secret to making the konbu soft. The vinegary taste goes away later.
- When it softens, cut the konbu with scissors into 2 cm. x 2 cm square.
- Place the cut konbu and water in a pan and bring it to a boil, cooking at low heat for about an hour.
- After an hour , add dashi, sugar, soy sauce, and mirin. Then cook it again at low heat until the sauce thickens and the moisture boils away almost entirely.
- Cool it down. Then, if you like, add sesame seeds or katsuobushi.
- Put it in a small tupperware and keep it in the fridge.
For best results, let it sit in the fridge overnight. For some reason, that makes it noticeably tastier!