Kelp Squares with Fragrant Pepper

Kombu no Sanshō Ni


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

An American Taste of Japan

An American Taste of Japan

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1985

  • About

If you make fresh dashi stock frequently, you’ll find yourself with quite a bit of leftover kelp. Save the pieces in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, and when you have about 48 square inches, make up a batch of these pleasantly spicy squares. Once prepared according to the recipe below, the kelp will keep, covered and refrigerated, for a month or more. A few squares will perk up a steaming bowl of plain white rice and add nutrition (particularly calcium) to your meal if you serve it as a condiment.


  • about 48 square inches kombu (kelp), left over from making dashi (basic sea stock)
  • 6 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons mirin (syrupy rice wine)
  • generous ¼ teaspoon sanshō (fragrant Japanese pepper) powder OR 1 scant teaspoon salted sanshtō berries (see Note)
  • slice the kelp into 1-inch squares.


In an enamel, glass, or stainless-steel pot, bring 2 cups of water to a rolling boil, then add 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar. Reduce the heat to maintain a steady though not vigorous boil, and cook the kelp squares for 7–8 minutes. Drain the kelp and repeat this cooking process for another 5 minutes using 2 cups of fresh water and 3 more tablespoons of rice vinegar. These acid baths help to make the kelp tender and porous, but don’t really affect the final taste. If the surface of the kelp squares seems sticky, rinse under fresh cold water and pat dry on paper towels.

Rinse your saucepan and fill it with the soy sauce and syrupy rice wine. Over medium heat, bring this mixture to a simmer, then place the parboiled kelp squares in it. Cook over fairly low heat for 4–5 minutes, stirring frequently. The liquid will become very foamy as it reduces rapidly. Season the kelp with the fragrant pepper powder, stirring to ensure even distribution. Remove the pan from the heat and let the dark, lustrous kelp squares cool to room temperature before serving or storing for future use.