Nori is a type of red algae that has been produced and consumed in Japan since the 8th century. Nowadays, nori is a big part of the agricultural industry of Japan. It is grown on nets in coastal areas and then harvested and dried in thin sheets.
There's Something About Nori
You most likely know that nori sheets are used to wrap maki sushi, but that is not the only way they're consumed. In Japan, you find them in furikake for instance (nori flakes and dried fish rice seasoning) and you can also find them in small sheets eaten as snacks.
These are as addictive as chips! The reason is that they contain lots of this deep savory "umami" flavor. They are roasted using sesame oil, or some other types of vegetable oil, and seasoned to give them an extra tasty punch. In Japan, they are called "ajitsuke nori" (seasoned nori). These little sheets of "nori chips" have been growing in popularity worldwide. And that's a good thing! Because unlike chips, which quite arguably fall in the junk food category, giving you lots of calories for not much healthy nutritional intake, nori seaweeds are actually rich in plenty of vitamins and minerals!
Vegans, in particular, should be consuming nori as it is one of the only plant-based food that provides a good dose of vitamin B-12 which is an essential one for the healthy maintenance of nerve cells and the production of DNA and RNA. It also has a good amount of vitamins A and C, as well as calcium. What's more, they are very low in calories, which means you get lots of good nutrition for at a low caloric cost. The only downside in terms of health is that they tend to be rather salty.
How They Are Eaten In Japan
In Japan, there are several ways of eating them. As a light meal, people sometimes make small rice balls and wrap the small nori sheets around. This makes essentially an "onigiri".
They can be consumed as a savory snack while drinking, much like potato chips are consumed in North America.
If you have good chopstick skills, try to place them on top of your rice and wrapping bits of it with the nori by using the chopsticks.
There are many types of ajitsuke nori available in Japan. The Hiroshima-style oyster and soy sauce is a quite popular type of seasoning, and the wasabi seasoning is also really liked for its sharp spicy taste that goes well with beer!
Seaweed snacks have exploded in popularity worldwide in recent years because they taste great and are actually healthy! You might be available to buy them at your local supermarket even if you don't live in Japan. Give them a try if you haven't!