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[Special] Japanese Superfood! Various Facts About Nori from a Long-established Shop in Omori

Nori (dried seaweed) is a must for Japanese meals. It is actually a superfood that contains many nutrients such as protein, calcium, and vitamins in balanced ratios.
Did you know that Omori in Ota City is the birthplace of nori production?
Nori has been produced in Omori in Ota City since around the middle of the Edo period. Omori’s nori boasted the best flavor and production volume nationwide, and the methods of nori production and processing spread throughout Japan from Omori. However, due to several reasons, including a harbor improvement plan, in 1962 it was decided that the fishery would be abandoned, and in spring of 1963, the curtain came down on the 300-year history of nori production in Ota City. However, there are still many nori-related businesses remaining in Ota City even now, making it an important location for nori distribution in Japan.
Today, we will be introducing lots of information about nori, from the history of Omori nori to using nori to put a twist on recipes.

The history of nori in Omori We spoke to Morihan Noriten, a ground-breaking purveyor of yakinori since the Meiji period



First of all, we wanted to know more about nori, so we paid a visit to Morihan Noriten, a nori shop in Omori which has been in operation since 1901.
Morihan Noriten is a historic shop that is said to be the first shop to sell yakinori (roasted seaweed). Morihan Noriten is a shop that perpetuates the tradition of Omori nori that began 120 years ago.



We talked to the executive officer of the shop, Mr. Hanjiro Moriya.
“The sea near Omori was very suitable for farming nori. The vast mouth of the Tama River with its slow flow brings fresh water full of nutrients from upstream, which then flows into the sea. The nutrient-rich Oyashio Current, which flows clockwise due to convection after flowing into Tokyo Bay, flows near Omori. Sea water and fresh water slowly mix near Omori. On top of that, the sea level difference between the low and high tides is huge, allowing the location to have the best conditions for nori farming.
In 1963, the area’s history of nori production came to an end, but as with us, there are many nori-related businesses which are operating from Omori, and they select, taste, process, and sell nori to all over Japan. Omori is an important location for nori distribution.”



“In our case, of course we were attached to Omori nori, and so we tried all kinds of nori from various locations in Japan to find the one that is the most similar to Omori nori. We then found out that the Ariake Sea in Kyushu has a similar environment to the nori farm in Omori. The nori produced in Saga Prefecture is especially high in quality, so now we only purchase nori from the Ariake Sea in Saga.”

Now, how does unprocessed nori coming in from where it is produced become great tasting nori? Next, we talked to Mr. Takatoshi Sato, who is the factory manager for Morihan Noriten.

Let us demonstrate Morihan Noriten’s commitment to quality roasted nori that’s packed with flavor!



As Mr. Moriya mentioned earlier, Morihan Noriten only purchases nori from the Ariake Sea in Saga Prefecture. Furthermore, Morihan Noriten is particular about something.
“The production season for nori starts in November and lasts until March when the weather gets warmer. There are a few harvests during this time, but we only purchase nori that grows from the end of December through January. The reason for this is that the water temperature is low and the sea is rich with nutrients around this time, enabling high-quality nori to grow,” says Mr. Sato, the factory manager.

Now, just purchasing this nori and selling it is definitely not enough. Veteran artisans who know the ins and outs of nori have to perform appropriate processing in order to turn the raw nori into flavorful nori with a rich aroma. Let’s take a look at the processing procedures.



The condition of the delivered nori is soft and wavy like the above picture due to it containing lots of water. The nori is put into a dryer called a hoiro and is straightened out. Going through this process enables the nori to be stored for a long term.


Dryers for nori called hoiro

At the bottom shelf in the hoiro, there are electric heating elements so that the heat will rise up from the bottom. These days, many companies use a device that can dry the nori in a few hours, but Morihan Noriten uses these hoiro that they have been using for the past 50 years. It takes two and a half days to dry the nori with these hoiro. By slowly drying the nori, it becomes rich and flavorful.


Before drying (left) and after drying (right)

You can see that the nori on the left is wavy before drying, but the nori on the right straightens out after drying, when all the water is removed.
The next step is roasting.



After drying, the dried nori becomes roasted nori by being processed in a roasting machine.



The nori is roasted carefully piece by piece in this roasting machine with a conveyor belt.
Roasting is finished in a matter of seconds, but the nori is so delicate that if the roasting temperature or time is off by even a little, it won’t become flavorful roasted nori.
This roasting machine allows the operator to fine-tune the roasting temperature as well as the belt speed, so the artisan precisely adjusts them according to the weather, season, temperature, condition of the nori, and even the humidity of the factory so that it’ll always be roasted to a certain quality. This is craftsmanship at work!



The nori on the right is before roasting, and the nori on the left is after roasting. When you hold them up to the light, you can clearly see the difference. The nori before roasting has a strong red and black tint to it, which reminds you of the color of seaweed, but the nori after roasting has a beautiful green color!
We tried both of them. The unroasted nori had a strong ocean smell and flavor typical of seaweed, but the roasted nori had a rich aroma and flavorful taste.

The way to recognize flavorful nori is its dark color and luster



Let us tell you how to recognize tasteful nori as explained to us by the factory manager, Mr. Sato.

“For roasted nori, focus on the beautiful roasted color. When the nori is roasted beautifully, the seaweed is evenly distributed in the sheet, which is the proof that the nori grew in conditions with abundant nutrients. Black nori with a good luster is the best tasting nori.”

Mr. Sato also told us how to determine which nori to choose depending on the flavor you like.

“If you like a strong flavor with a bang, I recommend nori that has a little dullness with slight waviness and bumpiness on the surface. Such nori tends to have stronger salt concentration with a stronger flavor.
If you like sweeter nori, pick one that has tiny holes on the surface. The nori made from sprouts of seaweed has a unique sweetness, and the sprouts have shorter fibers, so the nori made from these looks like it has tiny holes.”

Morihan Noriten recommended! Trendy nori recipes

Nori has an image as something unique to Japanese cuisine, but actually, nori is an ingredient that matches all kinds of foods.
Let us introduce some unique nori recipes that are recommended by Morihan Noriten!


This is a hot sandwich made with Hishioni (100g per jar, 756 yen with tax) and roasted nori. Hishioni is nori tsukudani (seaweed simmered in soy sauce and mirin). Both Hishioni and the roasted nori are sold at Morihan Noriten. Mix Hishioni and mayonnaise, and then spread it on bread. Put the roasted nori and cheese on top of it, and then toast it for three to five minutes. That’s it! Nori and toast make a surprisingly great combo. It’s definitely a recipe you will love!



Caprese salad becomes a unique dish once you use nori in it. All you have to do is mix olive oil and Hishioni, and then pour it on tomatoes and mozzarella cheese! You can make an exciting variation on dishes easily with nori!



Regarding measures related to COVID-19, Morihan Noriten has installed a hand sanitizer dispenser at the entrance as well as set a limit on the number of customers allowed inside the shop to two groups, and requires staff to wear masks and disinfect their hands.

Morihan Noriten is a historic shop with substantial experience and a commitment to quality. How about enjoying nori by simply adding it to your dinner or using it in your menu?

Morihan Noriten
Address
1-29-3 Omorikita, Ota-ku
TEL
0120-62-4077
Operating Hours
Weekdays: 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
National Holidays: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Regular Day Off
Sundays, Year-end and New Year holidays
* Other than the closures mentioned above, there may be other closures, so please call or check their website in advance.
Official Website
You will be able to learn more about nori!
Omori Nori Museum



You can learn the history of nori production in Omori and other interesting facts at the Omori Nori Museum.
The Omori Nori Museum offers various events where you can experience pasting the seaweed on a reed mat as well as experience traditional techniques, so please drop by if you would like to know more about nori!


Omori Nori Museum
Address
 2-2 Heiwanomori Park, Ota-kuTEL
 03-5471-0333Operating Hours
 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (January - May, September - December)
 9:00a.m. - 7:00p.m. (June - August)
Admission fee
 FreeRegular Day Off
 Third Monday of each month (When a national holiday falls on the third Monday, the following day will be closed.)
 Year-end and New Year holidays (December 29th - January 3rd)
 * There may be some temporary closures.
Official Website
https://www.norimuseum.com/english/

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