Mozuku is a type of seaweed. Before coming to Japan, I had never eaten any kind of seaweed, even nori which is the kind used in sushi rolls. I had a vague feeling of disgust when thinking about seaweed, which is weird given that they’re just plants that happen to grow in the sea.
On my first day at school, we had soup with seaweed in it, and given that there were a 100 kids around me waiting to see what the gaijin did, I ate it. What I wasn’t expecting was how delicious it was. Over the past five years I’ve had a lot of different seaweeds in a lot of different dishes. One that has popped up a lot since moving to Kumejima is mozuku.
Mozuku (Cladosiphon Okamuranus) is a seaweed that grows in small groups in shallow water in Okinawa. The actual taste of the seaweed isn’t strong, but is a ready source of vitamins and minerals and is easy to harvest. During school lunches I’ve most often found it in soups and tempura, though it also went really well on pizza (okay so that wasn’t at school).
On Kume Island, mozuku is harvested between April and June in the shallow waters around Oo Island. I went out one Saturday afternoon and found several people harvesting during low tide. They suggested that May was when the mozuku was most delicious. I also asked them about how long mozuku would keep. They said that if refrigerated it would stay up to a year, while non-refrigerated mozuku would be good for a month.
Many locals simply go and harvest enough for themselves and their families, though one lady I talked to was planning to send a batch to friends in Tokyo. At the local store, mozuku was available in a small package for about 150 yen since it in season. There are also branded packages available for tourists as omiyage.
Once the mozuku is harvested, locals wash it in sea water to remove shells, bits of coral, sand, and small animal. Be sure to wash your mozuku well before use.
So if you do get some mozuku, here are a few ways you can use it.
- Add it to Miso Soup
- Strain it well and add to tempura
- Top a pizza with mozuku and canned (or fresh) tuna
- Mix it into eggs for a vitamin rich breakfast
- Eat it raw dipped in ponzu (a sweet and sour sauce based on soy)