No doubt it was my hunger for buttered toast that caused me to spread really good butter on a sheet of nori seaweed. That surprising combination has become another thing I hunger for: Nori’s crackle combined with its subtle brininess and complex umami is a revelation with unsalted butter adorned with a few grains of flaky sea salt.
I was happy when I shared it with friends, including Japan-born Sumi, to discover they enjoyed it too. It’s GOOD!
I found nothing when I googled nori and butter sandwich, or nori with butter. The closest is nori butter, a compound butter that is, I hear, delicious on fish. Some people like to spread it on bread.
My nori and butter sandwich is nothing more than a simple formula of elements:
a sheet of nori, toasted lightly over a low flame, spread with good unsalted butter, and sprinkled with a few grains of sea salt.
I cut standard 7 x 9-inch nori sheets into rough squares which are more manageable in the hand.
Sometimes I just fold them in half to make a bite-size snack:
Good butter is essential. I use raw, cultured butter from Essex Farm, or I make my own out of heavy cream and creme fraiche. (It’s easy in a food processor. Detailed instructions here; after you’ve made it once, you can whip up your own butter in five minutes.)
There is nori and there is nori
After I made a sample nori and butter sandwich for Sumi, she sent me several packs of different nori and I did a side-by-side tasting. That’s when I realized that each has their own unique flavor, according to the algae manufacturers use to press into the papery sheets:
In a process traceable to the 1600s in the city of Edo, now Tokyo, nori was developed by traditional paper makers who applied their craft to press seaweed growing in Tokyo Bay into edible paper. —Saveur, “The Beauty of Nori”
The very finest is said to be cultivated in Japan’s Ariake Sea, some 700 miles to the southwest of Tokyo.
The lower the quality, the tougher nori will be, and the more you have to chew. Quality nori should melt in your mouth.
It’s worth testing out different brands of nori (especially if you have access to a Japanese market.) The best readily-available nori I’ve found is by Eden Foods. Their packs of folded nori are less expensive then flat sheets.