Fancy Kelp Knots

Musubi Kombu

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes 3 dozen ,

    12 to 18


Appears in

An Ocean of Flavor: The Japanese Way with Fish and Seafood

An Ocean of Flavor

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1988

  • About

As you’ve seen in this book, dashi kombu, or sturdy kelp, is used to season many stocks and broths in the traditional Japanese kitchen. In some frugal households, the kelp is used a second or third time to make a weaker broth. Personally, I find those secondhand stocks insipid, and I prefer to recycle my used kelp as a vegetable.

These nutritious fancy knots have a faint anise-like taste and are often added to a picnic of rice triangles or used to garnish a platter of grilled or fried fish or chicken.


  • 36-40 square inches softened dashi kombu (kelp left over from stock making)
  • 4-6 tablespoons rice vinegar (to soften, not season, the kelp)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons saké (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce


  1. Cut the kelp into thirty-six strips, each ¼ inch wide and about 3 inches long. Tie each of these strips into a knot.
  2. In a glass or enamel-lined pot, bring 2 or 3 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar, and reduce the heat to maintain a steady but not vigorous boil. Add the kelp knots and cook for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Drain the kelp knots, but do not refresh them under cold water. Fill the same saucepan with 2-3 cups fresh cold water and return it to a boil. Add the remaining 2-3 tablespoons vinegar, lower the heat slightly, and cook the kelp knots again, this time for 5-6 minutes. (Precooking the kelp in these acidulated baths helps tenderize the fibrous vegetable.) Drain the kelp knots.
  4. Rinse the pot out and add the 2 tablespoons each of water and rice wine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat slightly, and add the kelp knots. Cook for 3–4 minutes, then add the sugar. Stir frequently until the sugar has dissolved. Cook for another minute or 2, then add the soy sauce. The sauce will become foamy and will reduce rapidly. It is best to use an otoshi-buta, or “dropped lid,” when simmering the kelp knots in the sweetened soy broth.
  5. Being careful not to scorch the knots, cook them until they are well glazed and little or no sauce remains, about 5 minutes. Allow the kelp to cool in the cooking pan.