At my recent food conference in Missoula, I heard a great talk by a historian of Japanese cuisine, who spoke about the rise of instant ramen in Japan. In the Q&A period, someone asked about “Oriental”-flavored ramen that we see in the U.S. Did they have an equivalent in Japan?
The historian wisely fessed up to not having tried Oriental-flavored anything.
I have, unfortunately, and it usually means MSG and soy sauce topped with chemicals.
But let’s think about that combination. Both MSG, derived from seaweed, and soy are carriers of that savory “umami” taste. It’s no mistake that many Japanese people eat nori strips seasoned with soy with their morning rice, as it provides a flavorful, meaty hit to the bland staple.
Retrogrouch and I have started eating the Western version of nori strips as a snack — made thinner than the more traditional stuff and with less sugar — they are crunchy and salty and delicious. And pricey, since they’re marketed to
the sucker demographic health food consumers.
So it wasn’t much of a stretch to want to make my own, and with the wild popularity of kale chips lately, plus the lingering of kale season well past its welcome, I came up with a version that is healthier than the nori and different than all the other kale chip recipes out there. Dôzo go-enryo naku!
Orientalist Kale Chips
- 1 large bunch curly kale (aim for about 6 cups when prepped)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- coarse sea salt and white sesame seeds to taste
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wash kale carefully, soaking it in lightly salty water if you have picked it from your own garden and aphids have settled in. Remove the oldest leaves, as they tend to be too bitter for this preparation.
Drain kale. Tear leaves in bite sized pieces, removing large inner ribs from leaves.
Dry kale as best as you can in a salad spinner or with paper towels.
In a large bowl, toss kale pieces with sesame oil to coat leaves thoroughly. Add salt and sesame seed and toss again, lightly.
Arrange leaves on two baking sheets in a single layer. If leaves fold over, open them up.
Bake for 20 minutes. Kale should be crispy and not limp/pliable. If the latter, return the limp pieces to the oven for a few minutes until they crisp up.
Kale can be eaten as is or crumbled and added to corn on the cob, popcorn, or rice. It stores well for at least a few days.