Leftover Seaweed Rice Topping (Kombu no Tsukudani)

konbu_tsukudanipHave you ever considered making your own Japanese stock (dashi)? If you like miso soup, you should try doing it at least once. Then you will realise it’s a piece of cake in comparison with, say, chicken stock, not to mention the difference in taste with the powdered form. All you need (for the most popular dashi type) is dried konbu/kombu seaweed (昆布) and dried bonito flakes, both easily available at Japanese groceries or by internet. You can keep your stock several days in the fridge, you can of course freeze it, use also in Western dishes… the only problem you might encounter is throwing away the beautifully scented kombu strip, which obviously still has a culinary potential.

After different unsuccessful attempts, like shredding it and putting into Japanese stews, I finally discovered tsukudani, a delicious rice topping which gives a perfect second life to kombu. In fact, I love it so much, I no longer see leftover kombu as a problem, but as a great chance to prepare this addictive, crunchy, umami-flavoured alternative to the boring soy sauce.

Tsukudani 佃煮 is an old method of preserving, coming from the years when fridges were unheard of. Its main ingredient can be seaweed, meat or seafood. The products are simmered in soy sauce and mirin (sometimes with additional seasoning), until the mixture thickens. Thanks to the high concentration such a preparation keeps for longer. I prefer to keep it in the fridge because it tastes better when cold, but it will keep at room temperature too.

(My recipe is loosely adapted from ingredients’ list I have read on the package of a commercial tsukudani (I don’t even remember the brand…) and then adapted the amounts to my taste.)

TIPS: If you prepare dashi for the first time, don’t wash dry konbu before using it in dashi or in anything else! You will wash away lots of its flavour (and maybe some health benefits too…). Of course, rinse the cooked kombu before making tsukudani.

Apart from being an excellent rice topping, this tsukudani is delicious on fried or poached egg and also fresh cheese/quark toast… but possibilities are endless

Preparation: about 15 minutes

Ingredients (the below amounts should be treated only as a hint and adapted to everyone’s taste):

(approximately) 7 cm (about 3 in) piece of leftover konbu (still moist and fresh from the previous preparation)

4 tablespoons low sodium Japanese soy sauce (or 2 tablespoons of normal Japanese soy sauce)

1 tablespoon mirin (sweet cooking sake)

1 tablespoon sake

1 teaspoon toasted white sesame seeds

3-4 tablespoons dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi); I prefer here the small pieces

Rinse the konbu piece and chop it into tiny cubes or threads.

Place the kombu into a small pan, add the soy sauce, the mirin, the sake and the sesame seeds.

Let it all simmer at low heat until it thickens and becomes glossy.

Take off the heat, add the dried bonito flakes and stir well.

Keep in a closed jar in the fridge; it will last at least a month.

Serve as rice topping/seasoning.

12 Replies to “Leftover Seaweed Rice Topping (Kombu no Tsukudani)”

  1. Such a creative way to use a leftover ingredient! I’ve been making compost soup by taking the well washed peel and ends of my everyday vegetables (onion skins are amazing) and simmering them for a couple of hours in water; it makes a stick so amazingly flavourful, I cannot believe it’s made from what I once discarded!

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. It’s probably not very creative for the Japanese who know this tsukudani very well, but for me it was a revelation! I have never made a stock without chicken bones, but I must try one day (I always make it with frozen or dried leftover cut offs too; I even have too much of them…).

    1. Thank you, Katerina. It’s probably quite mysterious for those who don’t cook Japanese stock, but for the fans of dashi, it’s really great way to save the seaweed from the bin.

  2. You’re amazing Sissi! You don’t waste a thing do you? I love making chicken stock but I had tossing the vegetables that I had thrown in. That’s probably why I’ve reduced the extras done to garlic and peppercorns. I’ve never made dashi but it is another one of those dishes I’ve always wanted to make and now that I know you don’t have to toss the seaweed, I’ve even more inspired. This does sound like a great tasty topping for rice!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ, for the compliments. Unfortunately, I waste lots of food (though not as much as they say statistically a European does, so it’s a relief), but here the leftovers are so good, I really make dashi stock thinking: I’ll have tsukudani afterwards! Unfortunately I throw away all the chicken stock vegetables. They are just too mushy… but here the seaweed stays crunchy and firm after double cooking too.

  3. Thank you for the encouragement. I should really make my own dashi. This is a perfect way of conserving leftover goodies and not being wasteful. Thanks again, Sissi. 🙂

    1. Thanks a lot, Ray. Dashi is so easy and quick… Nothing compared to chicken stock and yet I think the latter scares people less!

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