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What Is Nori? Everything You Need to Know

If you have ever eaten sushi before, then the chances are that you have probably tasted Nori. It is widely used in Japanese cuisine, but one of its main uses is in the making of sushi rolls. This is because it is Nori that is usually used to make the dark exterior of your sushi. 

a bowl of nori with a bowl of salt pepper and tomatoes

But, unless you have done research into the making of sushi, or have tried making it yourself, there is a good chance that your knowledge of Nori is very limited. Even if you have made your own sushi, then it is unlikely that you really know that much about Nori. So, if you want to find out more, then you’re in the right place.

In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at exactly what Nori is, where it comes from, and what makes it so special in Japanese cuisine. So, keep on reading to find out.

Nori: What Exactly Is It?

Let’s begin by taking a look at exactly what Nori is. As we have said, Nori is widely used in Japanese cuisine, especially in sushi, and this is because of its natural properties. Nori is a type of edible seaweed that is harvested, then dried before being used in cooking. 

Due to the fact that it is seaweed, it is usually dark green in appearance, but depending on the drying process, it could also be brown or black too. Despite its color when used in cooking, Nori is usually harvested from a species of algae. Although it will never be red when it is used in cooking. 

a bowl of nori (seaweed)

Before Nori is used in Japanese cuisine, it is usually sliced up into squares. This makes it easier to handle, and easier to use when making sushi. The Nori forms the outer layer of the sushi, so it is simply laid flat and the ingredients for sushi are added on top. It can then be easily rolled and chopped before being enjoyed. 

So we know what Nori is, and that it is widely used in Japanese cuisine. But where does it come from, exactly? Let’s take a look. 

Where Does It Come From?

While the term ‘Nori’ is now used to refer to a specific type of seaweed, this wasn’t always the case. Traditionally, Nori was a generic term that was used to describe lots of different types of seaweed. The term ‘Nori’ dates back all the way to the 8th century, and it is still used today. 

This term was first used in the 8th century, and after that, the Nori market grew massively. It became an entire industry that was performing well up until the time after World War 2. But, it wasn’t long before the industry picked back up, and since then the manufacturing of Nori has only gotten bigger and better. 

seaweed farm growing nori

Traditional Japanese Nori is made using a species of red algae, called ‘genus Pyropia’, and this is still one of the best types of exterior that you can use for sushi, no matter what kind you’re making. But, the Nori market is now facing competition as Chinese and Korean companies are harvesting seaweed and selling it as an alternative to Nori. 

But, Nori will always be a traditional ingredient in sushi, and that will never change. So we know where it comes from, but what does it taste like?

What Does Nori Taste Like?

If you have never eaten sushi before, or have (and are wondering what part of the flavor is made up by Nori), then you probably want to know exactly what Nori tastes of. In terms of flavor, Nori is not overpowering, and this is the primary reason why it is so widely used in sushi and other Japanese cuisines

Nori has one primary flavor, and that is salt. Nori isn’t salted before it is used in cooking, and this flavor is not artificial. Instead, the Nori is able to get this naturally salty flavor because it is harvested from the sea. The sea is salty, and that is why most seafood, and food that comes from the sea, also tastes like salt. 

a bowl of nori

But, it isn’t the flavor of Nori that is most notable. Instead, it is the consistency of it. As Nori is a type of seaweed, it has a bumpy texture, and this does taste rather strange when you first try it. However, this is something that you will quickly get used to. So now that we know a lot about Nori, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of Nori. 

What Is Good About Nori?

So, aside from it being widely used in sushi, you might be wondering what is so good about Nori. After all, Nori isn’t just used in sushi, it is widely used across Japanese cuisine, and there must be a reason for this. So what is it?

Well, there is one simple reason why Nori is so widely used, and that is because it is incredibly healthy. Nori is natural, and because of this, it is packed with lots of excellent minerals and vitamins, all of which boast great health benefits. Here are just some of the vitamins and minerals found in Nori:

  • Calcium – for strong bones and teeth. 
  • Vitamin A – for growth and development. 
  • Vitamin B – for health and wellbeing. 
  • Vitamin D – for the immune system, muscle, bone, and heart health. 
  • Taurine – for nerve growth, and heart and brain health. 
  • And lots more… 

Nori is packed with lots of different health benefits, and because of this, it is good to add it to just about any diet, especially if you’re making vegan-friendly sushi.

However, just like everything, Nori should only be eaten in moderation. While it boasts lots of health benefits, there are also some drawbacks of Nori, and this is why you shouldn’t eat too much of it. Let’s take a look at what these drawbacks are. 

What Is Bad About Nori?

While Nori is linked with lots of great health benefits, it is also linked with some pretty big drawbacks too. Nori is very good for your health, but because it comes from the sea, there are some health risks which are associated with it. So, let’s find out what these are. 

One of the biggest drawbacks of Nori is that it is at risk of becoming contaminated when it is in the sea. The sea is full of all sorts of chemicals and minerals, and in particular, a lot of different metals have been found in the sea.

Due to this, it is not uncommon for Nori to become contaminated with toxic metals such as cadmium and arsenic. However, it is worth noting that this is just a risk, not all Nori is infected with these chemicals. 

Likewise, Nori could also pose a problem for those with allergies. Nori contains amphipod allergens, so if you suffer from seafood allergies, then you will likely have an allergic reaction to Nori. So, this is another potential risk that comes with this type of seaweed

Ways To Use Nori

So, now that you know pretty much all there is to know about Nori. Let’s wrap this up by taking a look at some of the best ways to use Nori. 

Nori Sheets

sheets of nori on a plate

The most common way in which Nori is used is in Nori sheets. Nori sheets are square sheets of Nori, and this is the type of Nori that is used to make sushi. In sushi, the rice and other ingredients are added to the sheet, and then the sheet is rolled. However, this isn’t the only way to serve Nori sheets. Nori sheets can also be roasted to make rice balls. 

Shredded Nori

bowl of shredded nori

Nori often comes in sheets, but these can be easily torn up into “shredded Nori”. Shredded Nori can then be ground up, and mixed with other nutritious ingredients, such as sesame or sunflower seeds. Most of the time, this is usually seasoned and then served alongside rice for a nutritious meal. 

Nori Strips

piece of sushi with a strip of nori

Alternatively, Nori can be sliced up into strips, and this is another common way for this ingredient to be served. Nori strips are used in a wide variety of Japanese dishes, including soups, ramen, omelettes, and salads. It is nutritious and totally delicious too. 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.