3 Clever Ways to Use Nori Sheets

With its briny flavor and crunchy texture, there's no wrong way to eat a nori sheet.

Nori Sheets
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Don't know what to do with those nori sheets, the thin dried sheets of pressed seaweed you only used once that have now been living in your pantry for months? Maybe you bought that packet of dark green papers because you were going to start making your own sushi, or maybe you bought it to snack on. Whatever the case, nori is a fantastic ingredient to keep on hand because it lasts for a long time and adds an instant, briny umami note to any dish.

The sheets are often sold as "plain" or "toasted" in resealable plastic bags. Just like with nuts or seeds, it's best to buy the plain sheets and toast them yourself for maximum flavor and texture (this is easy — we'll go over it below). However, if you can only find pre-toasted sheets (or have some stale ones in the back of the cupboard that you need to use up), you can re-toast them yourself right before using. Aside from sushi or hand rolls, these dried seaweed sheets are eaten on their own, or used as a garnish. You'll see them ground up and mixed with sesame seeds and bonito flakes to make furikake, or shredded and scattered over a bowl of steaming ramen. But there's so much more you can do. From an all-purpose dip to a nourishing Sunday night dinner, below are three uses for nori that will work for any level of cook. But first ... a lesson on toasting:

How to Toast Nori

All of the recipes below will have 10 times more flavor if you're able to toast the sheets of nori yourself. It gives the seaweed a slightly nutty taste and makes the sheets light and crispy.

Begin by spraying both sides of the nori sheets lightly with oil (such as sesame oil — we like the La Tourangelle brand). Alternatively, you can moisten a paper towel with oil and give each sheet a thin coating. Turn the burner of your gas stove up to moderate heat and, working with one sheet at a time and holding it with a pair of tongs, gently waft the paper back and forth over the flame. If it catches fire, just blow it out and continue. Cook until the nori is toasted and beginning to turn golden brown in spots, about 20 seconds. Transfer the nori to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining sheets. If you do not have a gas stove, you can do this under a broiler set to low with the rack positioned six inches below the heat. Watch carefully, as the sheets will toast quickly, and be sure to toast both sides.

How to Use Nori

I want something simple: Toasted Nori Dip

In a food processor, pulse 2 large torn sheets of toasted nori until finely ground. Add 1 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt (at least 2% fat), 2 tablespoons minced chives, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, and 1 tablespoon white miso and puree until smooth. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use. This dip is great served with cut-up vegetables and pita chips, with peeled and cooked shrimp in place of cocktail sauce, or smeared on a fish sandwich.

I have some extra time: Nori “Taco” Bar

"Sushi tacos," the food mashup that may have filled your Instagram feed awhile back, aren't difficult to make at home, despite how impressive they might look (tempura-battered and deep-fried nori shell, anyone?). So why not set up a bar? Yes, you could call this a hand-roll bar, too, but I like to eat everything folded up in squares of toasted nori like a taco. Begin by cutting your larger sheets of toasted nori into 4-inch squares. Then, steam some rice (preferably a short-grain Japanese rice — the sticky starches will help hold your "taco" together). Next, prepare your toppings: Julienne some carrots, scallions, red bell pepper, and shiso leaves, if you can find them. You can buy sushi-grade tuna or salmon from most grocery stores with a good fish counter. Set out furikake (nori double-duty!) or shichimi togarashi (crushed Japanese chile pepper) for sprinkling. Lastly, make a quick avocado salad (think of it as your salsa!) by tossing 2 halved, pitted, peeled, and chopped avocados with 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese rice wine), 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, and 1 tablespoon tamari (Japanese soy sauce). Gently toss and season with kosher salt and pepper. Set out the toasted nori sheets, steamed rice, and small bowls with all of the toppings, letting people build their own "tacos" with nori, rice, vegetables, fish, spices, and the avocado salad.

I want a challenge: Congee with Pork and Nori Meatballs

Congee, that thick and creamy rice porridge that's eaten in various forms all over Eastern Asia, is a great dish to add to your repertoire if you don't make it already. This version from chef James Syhabout is packed with bright ingredients like lemongrass, lime juice, and fish sauce. For a spin on this recipe, finely grind up one large sheet of toasted nori and include it in the pork meatball mixture. Proceed with the recipe as written, then when plating, top the finished bowls with julienned batons of toasted nori. The briny, toasty flavors of the seaweed pair nicely with the savory fish sauce that is used throughout the dish.

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