How the heck is nori made?

Let’s talk about nori, which I once heard described as “that black stuff wrapped around sushi.” You’ve eaten it. You probably know it’s seaweed. But do you have any idea where it comes from? Whether it’s wild or grown? Or how the heck it comes out looking like paper?

norimaki

I addressed exactly those questions in my Feb. 19 column in The Japan Times. I explained that nori is a sea plant that has been cultivated in Japan for several hundred years. I also described trying my hand at making a sheet of nori myself, and promised to provide pictures. Let’s start with the plant:

Nori (Porphyra yezoensis ) in its raw state

Nori (Porphyra yezoensis ) in its raw state


After processing, nori comes out looking like this. But how?

sheets-02

The following pictures are from a noritsuke taiken 海苔つけ体験 (make-your-own-nori workshop) at the Omori Nori Museum. The first step is to chop the raw seaweed. When these men were children, many nori-making households around Tokyo Bay used a multi-blade device like this one, which hung from a spring on the ceiling over a big chopping block.

norimaki

The chopped seaweed gets mixed with water into a slurry, which is in the big yellow bucket below. You set a squarish wooden frame atop a woven mat. Then you scoop up a measure of the slurry in a rectangular wooden box. While holding the frame lightly in place atop the mat, you slosh the slurry over the mat inside the frame, working quickly so it spreads evenly. Not as easy as it looks.

taiken

You lift off the frame and prop the mat up to help the water drain off. I took this shot just moments after she poured the slurry.

dry

The Omori Nori Museum 大森海苔のふるさと館 runs nori-making workshops January to April. There are also opportunities to try nori-making in Futtsu , in Chiba Prefecture and in Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture. I’m sure there are opportunities elsewhere too. To search in your area, the term you need to know is noritsuke taiken 海苔つけ体験。

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9 Responses to How the heck is nori made?

  1. Leah says:

    Fascinating! I had never really thought about how nori is made. I’ll have to see if there’s anything closer to me. Great article!

  2. Pingback: Fun Link Friday: “How the heck is nori made?” | What can I do with a B.A. in Japanese Studies?

  3. Great post! At this point, after it is dried, it is then called hoshi nori. Once it is grilled, it becomes yaki nori.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great post.But can you tell me how Nori is actually made and how also where I can Get it

  5. Anonymous says:

    You can buy Nori in Asian stores…& pick it up by the sea!!!

  6. Eugene de Geus says:

    Exactly the way paper used to be made, except in that case the ingredient is wood pulp.

  7. jeff says:

    Hi great post I was wondering if I can find this plant “Porphyra” in the philippines?

  8. In Tokyo Bay nori was traditionally gathered using a type of boat called a bekabune. The two most famous nori-producing communities were Ota and Urayasu. I built a bekabune with Urayasu’s last boatbuilder in 2001. Alice might be interested in exploring the origins of the word “beka” as there are several theories as to how these boats got the name. You can learn more at my website or by visiting the excellent Ota-ward and Urayasu Museums.

    http://www.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/bekabune_jp.html

  9. fariz says:

    ah.. i thought so thats how they make it.
    Im in osaka now. have been enjoying nori raw. and onigori ! And good short sweet article.. fits nicely in a tour trip.

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