Dried kombu may be found in East Asian markets and health food stores. The strips are often covered with a white powder from natural salts. Just wipe with a damp cloth before cooking. Store kombu in an airtight container away from sunlight and moisture.
Here are some of our favorite ways to use this sea vegetable:
• To make vegetarian broth. Kombu can be used to make a light broth for Asian soups like miso, noodle soup, and tofu soup. To make one quart of broth, fill a pot with 4 cups of water and a 4-6" strip of kombu. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add soy sauce if desired. (Use the leftover strip of kombu in other recipes.)
• To make dashi. Kombu is combined with bonito to make dashi, an essential stock used in Japanese cooking.
• To soften beans. The amino acids in kombu help soften beans and make them more digestible. Add a 4-6" strip of kombu to a pot of cooking beans. After an hour or two, the kombu will disintegrate when stirred. (Any stray pieces should be tender enough to eat, or you can remove them.)
• In stews. Use kombu to enhance the flavor of vegetable stews. It is particularly good with root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and turnips.
• In salads. Place kombu in a pot, cover with water, and simmer for an hour or until soft. Cut into strips and add to salads.
• As a condiment. Roast kombu in a dry skillet over medium heat until crisp. Crumble or grind it into a powder and use it as a salt substitute. Sprinkle it over grains, tofu, and vegetables.
Do you have any other suggestions?