Cups made of kelp from Hokkaido add a touch of umami to whatever you put inside
Written by tokyoclub on May 23, 2021
Kelp yourself to an extra flavorful cup of sake or soup.
Umami is a somewhat elusive flavor in western cuisine, and even explaining it can be tricky but one food that is a good example of the tart, earthy taste is kombu, Japanese kelp. Mostly used as a soup stock, kombu is also pickled as a side dish or brewed into a tea.
And now it would seem that Hokkaido seafood company Nakai Eisaku has even created tableware from kelp. The Kombu Guinomi is a small cup crafted from a thick compound of kelp sourced from Hidaka, Hokkaido along with flour and potato starch.
The cup isn’t edible…well, I guess it technically is edible but no one is advising it. It is perishable though, and can only be used a certain amount of times before it begins to crack. Still, at 550 yen (US$5) a cup, its not a bad deal.
Our writer Masami K ordered one from the online shop linked below to see how Kombu Guinomi could enhance a few classic Japanese tastes.
▼ The bottom of the cup
Picking it up, it was really light and felt a little soft, but also thick and durable – kind of like a nerf sake cup. Masami could easily feel the kombu texture and it even smelled faintly of a rocky sea shore.
Since certain varieties of sake are also rich in umami flavor, this seemed like a perfect match. Masami grabbed a bottle and filled her Kombu Guiomi up. She followed the instructions which said sake or tea should be left to sit for a while before drinking to allow the kelp time to infuse.
After taking a gulp, Masami could detect the kelp both where her lips touched the cup and in an aroma that filled her mouth and nose. Kelp is something of an acquired taste, so this might not appeal to everyone, but as someone who came from a coastal town, she appreciated the nautical touch it brought.
Still, it wasn’t enough to make her crave more. She felt this cup had some potential but wasn’t sure how to fully unlock it. It was her friend who suggested: “Kelp is used in soup, so why not drink miso soup from it?”
After whipping up a pot, Masami poured a Kombu Guinomi and again let it sit for a bit. Sure enough, the umami of the kelp really amplified the savory taste of the soup once again bringing full taste to her lips and nose.
Again, you probably need to be on board with the taste of kelp before diving into a Kombu Guinomi. But for kombu fans, it can be a really fun experiment to combine with different things and see what works. Seems like a really nice chawanmushi could be made if the cup holds up to the cooking.