MA-KOMBU, premium kelp
From Matsumaeya Company
Kombu, kelp, a tall, dark green plant which grows in shallow to medium deep cold seawater, is an indispensable staple in the preparation of Japanese foods.
Most of the kelp consumed in Japan comes from the cold, clean waters off Hokkaido, the northern-most large island. Among the many species, MA-KOMBU is known as the king of kelp because of its fragrant bouquet and its ability to produce crystal clear, mellow sweet, rich and refined stock.
Two year old MA-KOMBU is harvested annually during a short period from mid-July through mid-August. After the early morning harvest hundreds of moist kelp leaves are spread out on pebbles on the beach and dried naturally in the sun. Before the sun goes down the partially dried kelp is brought inside the factory barn, stacked up and left for overnight storage. Next morning the kelp is again laid over the pebbles for further drying. This process is repeated for several more days.
Then the hard and dried kelp is left outside after sunset to absorb nighttime moisture making the kelp flexible, allowing it to be stretched and tightly rolled for storage. The stretched kelp is then trimmed by hand to remove the wavy edge, sorted by size and quality and finally it is further dried in the barn. At the end of the process kelp weighs only about 9% of the weight of the original material when it was taken for the sea.
During the drying process as internal water evaporates, fine white powder seeps out from the interior and covers the surface. This powder is the source of fragrant sweetness and good flavor. The proper amount of white powder - either too much or too little is not good - determines the quality of the kelp. A simple piece of kelp comes a long way from being a wild sea plant to becoming a chef-ready ingredient.
Kelp is synonymous with the concept of "umami", excellent flavor. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a Japanese researcher, Kikunae Ikeda, studied stock made from kelp in order to determine the key chemical that provides a delicious flavor and also enhances the flavors of other ingredients. He discovered the presence of natural glutamic acid in kelp. This discovery was followed the production of synthetic monosodium glutamate, MSG which is often accused of producing allergic reactions in consumers. The natural glutamic acid in kelp does not suffer from this defect.
MA-KOMBU's power is not limited to providing excellent flavor to prepared dishes. Kelp is rich in minerals, vitamins, dietary fibers and iodine. Scientific studies show that kelp contains chemicals that can fight against high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and even some forms of cancer. MA-KOMBU is an ideal staple in an American kitchen as well as in its traditional environment in Japanese cuisine.
Shelf life: 2 to 3 years; store in a plastic bag with jip log in a cool, dark place
The Company: Matsumaeya, the distributor of MA-KOMBU, was founded in 1912. It is located in the city of Osaka. Osaka has long been an important commercial city which in past centuries catered to the nearby imperial city of Kyoto. Osaka therefore developed a tradition for the highest quality of food products, including kombu. These products have long been shipped to Osaka from every part of the county.
Matsumaeya Company, in addition to supplying dried raw kelp, also produces the finest quality kombu-derived products. Among them are many condiments which are eaten with the plain prepared white rice that is an essential element of nearly every Japanese meal. One of these products is called tokowaka - kelp, cut into about 1 _-inch squares, simmered tender in flavored broth and then partially dried. These flavorful small squares of kombu demonstrate the pride of a company that is committed to quality, quality and quality.